LA County Board Delays Talk of Overhauling Juvenile Detention Facilities

Juvenile Division of Police Station

Photo: Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday delayed consideration of advancing what it terms a new "Global Plan" for the placement and care of juvenile detainees when the state begins to close its own youth detention facilities this summer.

The board had been scheduled Tuesday to discuss a motion by board Chair Janice Hahn and Supervisor Lindsey Horvath that calls for the optimal use and renovation of the county's current youth facilities to accommodate the new influx of detainees into what will be called Secure Youth Treatment Facilities. As it is phased out in accord with Senate Bill 883, the state's Division of Juvenile Justice intends to transfer all the youth in its custody into SYTFs -- located at various county youth camps and juvenile detention centers throughout the state -- by July.

Around 150 are destined for Los Angeles County, whose Probation Department has 17 detention centers. Two of them are operating as Juvenile Halls with a census of 380. Another 86 detainees live in the remaining centers, most of which are camps. Many of the camps are no longer in use, since the county's youth detainee population outside juvenile halls has shrunk considerably over the past decade. Meanwhile, staff levels have remained high, though some of the camps are in need of renovation.

The motion is scheduled to be heard by the board in two weeks.

It would initiate a short-term plan to be presented in 15 days, and completed a month after that, which, according to the motion, "must be feasible to implement without the need for extensive renovation, security enhancements or new hiring."

Another objective is reducing the current population of Barry J. Nidorf Hall, possibly by moving some detainees to the underused Los Padrinos Hall facility. Nidorf is in partial use as a SYTF, but according to the board motion, it "sorely lacks the core components of a successful program."

The Los Angeles County Probation Department has been plagued with troubles for more than a year.

In March of last year, about 140 juvenile detainees were hastily transferred from Central Juvenile Hall in Lincoln Heights to Nidorf -- a move that the county inspector general later concluded was orchestrated to avert a state inspection that appeared likely to fail.

Recently the Board of Supervisors admonished Chief Probation Officer Adolfo Gonzales for the continued use of pepper spray in juvenile detainees. Last week, two board members called for Gonzales' resignation.

Department officials have blamed their problems on staff shortages and the pandemic.

The county has also been sued by hundreds of former detainees alleging they were sexually assaulted by probation and detention officer at county juvenile facilities.

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