Teen Dies of Apparent Overdose in LA County Juvenile Hall

Naloxone Opioid Overdose Medication with Syringe

Photo: Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A teenage detainee at a Los Angeles County juvenile hall died of an apparent overdose Tuesday, according to an online report.

The death was reported by the Los Angeles Times, which cited unnamed sources with "direct knowledge of the situation."

Los Angeles County Probation Department officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report. Sheriff's officials had no information on the reported death, referring inquiries to the Probation Department.

According to The Times, the teen was found unresponsive in his room Tuesday morning at Barry J. Nidorf Hall in Sylmar. An unnamed source told the paper that the teen was administered Narcan -- the anti-overdose medication -- but was pronounced dead a short time later.

The death came on the day county attorneys were scheduled to appear in court and defend conditions at juvenile halls following allegations by state prosecutors that conditions in the facilities were "appalling."

The county's juvenile halls have been under intense scrutiny in recent months. Last week, the county Board of Supervisors OK'd a sweeping plan for reorganizing the juvenile detention system. The plan included a relocation of most detainees, upgrades to most facilities and asking the sheriff's department to deploy volunteer reserve deputies to help fill holes in staffing.

Last month, state Attorney General Rob Bonta slammed the condition of the juvenile halls as "appalling" and filed court papers seeking to force the county to immediately remedy "illegal and unsafe" conditions. The motion filed in Los Angeles Superior Court asks for an order requiring the county to comply with a 2021 judgment ordering improvements in conditions at juvenile halls, including improved staffing levels and ensuring that youth in the county's care are taken to school and medical appointments.

A hearing on that motion was scheduled for Tuesday morning.

The Board of Supervisors was also meeting in closed session Tuesday morning to discuss that pending litigation.

Meanwhile, the state Board of State and Community Corrections has been considering possibly ordering the shutdown of the county's juvenile halls altogether due to lack of compliance with state regulations. The board declined to do so at its meeting last month, but another hearing is set for May 23.

A recent county Inspector General report also expressed concern about the spread of the opioid fentanyl in county juvenile facilities, pointing to two recent cases of detainees being treated for possible overdoses.

Under the plan approved by the Board of Supervisors last week, the Probation Department plans to reopen the previously shuttered Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey and move all "predisposition" youth to that facility. Central Juvenile Hall in Lincoln Heights will operate as a law enforcement intake unit and medical and diagnostic/assessment hub, while Nidorf Hall will serve solely as a Secure Youth Treatment Facility aimed at providing a more rehabilitative atmosphere for youth.

The Board of Supervisors previously voted to advance a "Global Plan" for the placement and care of juvenile detainees, with a goal of reducing the overall number of juveniles in custody and development of additional Secure Youth Treatment Facilities to provide a more supportive environment for detained youth.

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

Late last year, nearly 300 boys and girls filed a lawsuit alleging they were sexually assaulted, harassed and abused by county probation and detention officers while being held at juvenile facilities dating back to the 1970s. County CEO Fesia Davenport noted while releasing her recent budget proposal for the coming year that the county could potentially face liabilities reaching $3 billion from such abuse claims.

In March, the Board of Supervisors fired Probation Department Chief Adofo Gonzales, with board Chair Janice Hahn noting that the juvenile halls "are in crisis." Karen Fletcher, the interim probation chief, told LAist on Tuesday that she plans to retire on May 19.

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