L.A. County Deputy Probation Unions Sponsor Major Probation Legislation
Los Angeles County Deputy Probation Officers, Supervisors, and Managers have announced their sponsorship of Assembly Bill 695 (Pacheco), known as the Juvenile Detention Facilities Improvement Grant Program, following decades of advocacy for improved facilities for justice-involved youth. AB 695 aims to address the concerns raised by Probation staff regarding the need for rehabilitative programs and safer facilities for youth, officers, teachers, and service providers. The proposed legislation would allocate funds and provide oversight for state-of-the-art juvenile facilities in L.A. County that prioritize care-first treatment, therapeutics, and rehabilitation, while also providing much-needed training for Probation staff. In response to the introduction of AB 695, Supervisors Hahn, Horvath, and Mitchell have introduced motions challenging current State law that assigns juvenile justice to California Superior Courts and County Probation Departments, echoing longstanding concerns raised by Probation staff and reported by the Los Angeles Times.
The following summarizes the items on the agenda for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors today:
Agenda Item #2, which is co-authored by Supervisors Horvath and Mitchell, restates what Probation staff have been stating for years and has now been widely reported by the news media: The halls and camps are in dilapidated shape and are both unsafe and unfit for rehabilitative care. The motion goes further by seeking to seize political control of early release from the courts, which now have the statutory authority to determine when it is safe for a juvenile to be released to a community group home or back to his or her neighborhood.
Agenda Item #5, which is co-authored by Supervisors Hahn and Horvath, proposes a “global plan” for the Probation Department’s Halls and Camps.
Agenda Item #6, which is co-authored by Supervisors Horvath and Mitchell, calls for establishing programs and services for justice-involved youth yet fails to mention that the Probation Department already has a multitude of established programs that are not being implemented due to improper and unsafe facilities, insufficient staffing, and – according to the Los Angeles Times, “because teachers and contract service providers are too afraid to come in.”*
“We have always supported, and we continue to support, implementing a care-first, trauma-informed service delivery model in collaboration with community-based organizations and faith-based groups, as well as with parent and school-based groups that focuses on improving lives,” said Hans Liang, President of the L.A. County Deputy Probation Officers Union. “If there’s one area where we have disagreed it is on officer safety. As a union, it is our job to protect our members from harm, and we will never stop fighting for their safety. We owe that our members. We owe that to their families. And we owe that to the mission of the department because if our members don’t feel safe – and if they don’t feel that you, their bosses, have their backs – then the mission of the department is compromised.”
“Supervisors, the separation of powers is a cornerstone of modern democracies,” said Jonathan Byrd, Second Vice President and Chief Steward, L.A. County Deputy Probation Officers’ Union, It's the principle that divides government into distinct branches, each with its own powers and responsibilities. This separation ensures that no single branch of government can become too powerful, which is essential for maintaining a healthy democracy. One of the most critical branches of government is the judiciary, which is solely responsible for interpreting and upholding the law – and for determining if a juvenile or young adult should be released into the community. Any attempt to take power away from the courts and put it solely in the hands of the Board of Supervisors is a direct attack on the separation of powers, and it threatens the foundations of democracy.”
*”Editorial: The real L.A. model of juvenile justice: Delay, disaster, disgrace,” Los Angeles Times, March 12, 2023.