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Home / juvenile halls

LA County avoids state shutdown of juvenile detention facilities

State regulators decided Thursday that two Los Angeles County facilities are again suitable to house youth offenders.

The decision by the California Board of State and Community Corrections averted a potentially disastrous closure of Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey and the Barry J. Nidorf Secure Youth Treatment Facility in Sylmar.

The board ruled in February that the two facilities were “unsuitable” to house youth detainees.

The BSCC’s decision found Nidorf out of compliance with state regulations regarding staffing, training, use of force training, disciplinary procedures and detainees’ access to programs and recreation.

Los Padrinos was found to be noncompliant in staffing levels, fire safety plans, safety checks, room confinement protocols, training in the use of force, searches, education programs, detainiees’ access to programs and recreation and disciplinary procedures.

After two months of making changes that included moving many probation officers from field duty to detention posts, the facilities passed recent state inspections that provided the basis for the board’s “suitable” designation.

Another “unsuitable” finding would have forced the facilities to close by next week, and the county reportedly had no plans for alternative housing.

County officials hailed the board’s decision, but said more work needs to be done to improve conditions at Nidorf and Los Padrinos.

“Under the Board of Supervisors’ direction, the Probation Department has made great strides addressing deficiencies at facilities by increasing and stabilizing staff levels, providing hundreds of hours of additional training, and working closely with BSCC staff to tighten procedures and protocols,” LA County Probation Department Chief Guillermo Viera Rosa said in a statement. “While today’s BSCC decision marks a milestone in that effort, we note the ongoing concerns and acknowledge there’s still much more to be done.

“The county remains fully committed to transforming its juvenile justice facilities into the safest, most nurturing environments possible for the youth committed to our care.”

County Supervisor Kathryn Barger hailed Thursday’s decision, but noted that more needs to be done to improve the juvenile facilities.

Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a statement, “Today’s suitability finding is a testament to the hard work that our county’s Probation Department, under new leadership, has put in to improve the care youth are receiving at two challenging sites. The work is far from over, but we are headed in the right direction.

“I will continue closely tracking our Probation Department’s focus on sustaining and enhancing this progress and implementation. I fully support a continued focus on staffing at the appropriate levels — this is the heart of what will make improvements permanent. Keeping the youth in our care and staff safe is my top priority for the department.”

In recent years the Probation Department has been criticized for operational shortcomings and troubling incidents at the county’s juvenile detention facilities.

Shortly after it opened last year following a state-mandated closure of other youth detention facilities, Los Padrinos saw two escapes and in January eight probation officers were placed on leave in the wake of a Los Angeles Times report that the officers didn’t intervene when a teen detainee was assaulted by a group of other youths.

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