(LOS ANGELES, CA) Today, the California Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) issued a “Notice of Unsuitability” to the County of Los Angeles requiring the closure of the Barry J. Nidorf and Central Juvenile Halls effective July 23, 2023. The BSCC’s action comes after decades of neglect by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and their appointed executives who oversee the largest probation department in the nation, which is under the direct executive control of the Board of Supervisors. The basis of the BSCC’s unsuitability determination is the lack of staffing and the fact that the Board of Supervisors has persistently failed to hire, properly train, and assure a safe environment for youth and staff. There are currently more than 1,000 vacancies in the L.A. County Probation Department due to the Board of Supervisors’ hiring freeze.
In probable anticipation of the BSCC decision, the County Supervisors have been preparing for the re-opening of Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, a 1950s era facility that was closed by the Probation Department in 2018. While this facility may provide a temporary solution to the State’s unsuitability determination with the other two juvenile halls, it does not solve the key issue of lack of staffing to provide the required rehabilitative services that our justice-involved youth deserve.
“Officers assigned to the juvenile division are faced with daily youth-on-youth and youth-on-staff assaults and 40% of staff in the juvenile division are now out on injury leave,” said Hans Liang, President, L.A County Deputy Probation Officers Union, AFSCME Local 685. “To make up for the staffing shortfalls, staff are being compelled to work 18- to 24-hour shifts and have reached a breaking point, simply doing the best they can with limited resources and exhaustion.”
"If we had the proper resources, primarily maintaining appropriate staffing levels, we could provide the programs the Board of Supervisors and BSCC are seeking, but we barely have enough staff to cover shifts,” said Regino “Reggie” Torres Jr., President, Association of Probation Supervisors, SEIU 721, BU 702. “If staffing levels were restored, we could bring back the sports camps and other programming we know the juveniles in our care need.”
“In order for L.A. County Probation to optimally touch lives to illicit positive change, County executives must provide leadership development and invest in conscious and meaningful guidance for both staff and youth to become the best versions of themselves. Solutions thrive when leadership brings self-awareness, empathy, and integrity,” said Frank Paredes, President, Professional Managers Association, AFSCME Local 1967. “There are countless success stories of programs that have been canceled, evidence-based practices that have worked, and positive outcomes from unity with labor partners – management is routinely denying the community access to these stories and practices. Further, the County needs appropriate promotional practices and specific succession planning for an internal Chief Probation Officer to be forged with honor, dignity, and respect.”
Despite a consistent drumbeat of demands from the three unions representing sworn officers, supervisors, and managers in the Probation Department – and even a call in March from the largest of the three unions to have the Department of Justice assume immediate control of the department (the California Probation Officers Association of California (CPOC) also called for an immediate court receivership for L.A. County’s juvenile facilities in March) – the County has persistently failed to hire, properly train, and assure a safe environment for youth and staff. Further, despite cries from officers, stakeholders, and even the Grand Jury, the Board of Supervisors has failed to modernize the prison-like juvenile facilities.
In 2013, the Los Angeles County Grand Jury recommended “Razing all buildings on the site and construct[ing] a modern facility,” noting that “Central Juvenile Hall is in severe disrepair. It is a financial drain on the maintenance budget of the Probation Department. Constant need for repairs of basic utilities and infrastructure is costly. Rather than keeping the site operational through on-going remedial repairs, the Probation Department would save money and better serve the minors with a modern facility… Replacing the facility (CJH) would alleviate safety issues caused by dilapidated buildings.”
In March following decades of advocacy for improved facilities for justice-involved youth, the three unions representing Probation officers announced their sponsorship of Assembly Bill 695 (Pacheco), known as the Juvenile Detention Facilities Improvement Grant Program. 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. Specifically, AB 695 would provide funding and oversight for a state-of-the-art, home-like facilities that promote care first treatment, therapeutics, and rehabilitation. Click here to learn more.
This news comes on the heels of a California court ruling in favor of CA Attorney General Bonta’s request for enforcement action against the County of Los Angeles to “remedy illegal and unsafe conditions” in the two juvenile halls. In a May 9 press release, Bonta stated, “The court found that Los Angeles County has not complied with judgment provisions related to timely and adequate medical care, adequate staffing, transportation to education, compensatory education, outdoor recreation, camera installation at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall, and creation of a positive behavior management plan.”