Two Los Angeles County juvenile detention centers “unsuitable” to house youth detainees, might close very soon


Los Angeles, California – On Thursday, a group of state officials found two youth jails in Los Angeles County not good enough for holding young people. This started a two-month period for the county to fix the problems, or else the state could shut these jails down.

The group, called the California Board of State and Community Corrections, gathered in Sacramento and all agreed that the Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey and the Barry J. Nidorf Secure Youth Treatment Facility in Sylmar didn’t meet standards.

Los Padrinos is a place where young people stay before their court cases are decided. The Nidorf facility keeps young people who have been found guilty. Last year, the county quickly reopened Los Padrinos for these young people before their trials, moving them from two other places that were also not up to standard and had to be closed.

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Initially, this group didn’t oversee the Nidorf facility for the young people who had been judged, but they got the power to do so later. The decision made on Thursday puts the future of these youth jails in doubt. Even though officials from the county’s Probation Department said they were almost following the rules, recent checks found problems.

The department responsible for these jails has been criticized for a long time. After the meeting, a county leader, Janice Hahn, questioned if the department could make the necessary improvements. Following a serious problem last month at Los Padrinos in Downey, eight probation officers were suspended, as announced on Wednesday.

“It is unfortunate that the Probation Department made excuses at today’s BSCC meeting instead of owning up to the unacceptable conditions at two of our probation facilities,” Hahn said as reported by ABC7. “The BSCC wants to see real change and I expect the same. Multiple probation chiefs have been unable to fix the problems facing the department. I am concerned about the future of the Probation Department and whether they are capable of the reform that we all know needs to happen.”

On Thursday, the BSCC pointed out that the Nidorf SYTF didn’t meet the state’s rules for how many staff should be there, how staff are trained, how to properly use force, how to discipline, and how to give kids access to programs and fun activities. Los Padrinos had even more problems, not following the rules on how many staff there should be, plans for fire safety, checking on safety, how to keep kids in their rooms properly, training on using force, how to do searches, education programs, letting kids get to programs and activities, and how to discipline them.

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At the meeting, Kimberly Epps, a high-ranking official with the county’s Probation Department, tried to assure everyone that they’ve fixed all the problems the BSCC mentioned, sometimes saying the real issue was just not writing down what they did right. But, she admitted the department has been struggling for a long time, and she knows that people are getting really tired of hearing the same old promises.

“We know we are bankrupt in credibility,” Epps said at another point, but she insisted that the department’s new leadership is committed to improvement and change.

She asked the board to the delay the determinations of unsuitability and instead approve the creation of an “Operational Reconstruction Strike Team,” which would include BSCC officials and the county The Probation Department proposed a major overhaul to improve how juvenile halls follow rules, but the BSCC members didn’t like the idea. They mentioned that the state’s staff is always ready to help the county but made it clear that BSCC shouldn’t manage the facilities directly.

Shortly after opening, Los Padrinos faced serious issues, including two escapes, though the escapees were caught quickly. In January, eight probation officers were suspended due to a major incident with detainees. Reports surfaced of officers ignoring a teen being attacked by other detainees.

At the BSCC meeting, some community members claimed probation officers encouraged fights among the youths. One person emphasized the danger to youths in the facility daily. Another from the Youth Justice Coalition argued the facilities were unfit for children, suggesting the board members would agree if their own kids were inside.

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A probation officer at the meeting defended the staff, pointing out the serious crimes some youths were there for. She highlighted the challenges officers face, including being attacked, and criticized the focus on staff rather than management issues.

After the BSCC’s decision, county Supervisor Hilda Solis connected ongoing problems to senior staff misusing their power, ignoring problems, and allowing a culture of no accountability. She urged union representatives to stop defending staff involved in misconduct.

“The cycle of Probation juvenile facilities continuing to be in and out of compliance and being found unsuitable needs to end,” Solis said.

Inspectors from the BSCC checked out Los Padrinos and Nidorf Hall last August and found several issues that didn’t match state rules. The county tried to fix these problems and reported back that they were making progress toward fixing them. However, more checks in January and February showed that the problems weren’t all fixed yet, with Los Padrinos having nearly a dozen unresolved issues and Nidorf still facing seven.

Last week, the head of the county’s probation, Guillermo Viera Rosa, said they are working hard to meet all the requirements. But, he explained that changing how things are done in the county’s youth jails is a huge job that needs more time and effort. He mentioned that the problems have been around for over 20 years and can’t be fixed quickly or simply. It’s about changing the whole way things operate.

Rosa also talked about how different rules from the BSCC and the state Department of Justice make it harder to fix things. These mixed signals make it tough to know what to do, slow down their efforts to get better, and make it harder to meet all the rules.

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He stressed that the BSCC hasn’t given them enough time for the big changes they need to make. Rosa said they’re willing to do the work, but the timeline they’ve been given is too short. To really make things better, they need to change old habits and focus more on helping and supporting the young people they’re responsible for.

Joshua Caruzzo
Joshua Caruzzo
Josh is US News Hub power member. Yes, he really is. He is the one who covers local news about Los Angeles County including local news about Los Angeles, Long Beach and surrounding cities of Santa Monica, Pasadena, Irvine, Burbank, Arcadia and more…

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