LA County Probation

Have Conditions Become Unsafe For Staff & Kids at LA County’s Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall?

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

In the past two weeks, two new reports have described critically unsafe conditions at the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall, a Los Angeles County Probation Department youth facility located in Sylmar, California.

The first report was triggered late last month when officials at AFSCME Local 685—one of the main unions representing officers working for probation—were worried enough by the urgent messages from their members stationed at the Sylmar facility that they sent union representative, Stacy Ford, to visit the hall and  find out what was going on.

Ford went to the Sylmar-located facility—which is colloquially known as “Barry J”—on Wednesday, September 26. His subsequent report was scathing.

The union, however, is in the midst of contract negotiations with the county, so it was always possible Ford was exaggerating.

Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall

Nevertheless, startled by Ford’s report, along with what they were hearing from other sources, this past Saturday, October 6, five members of the LA County Probation Commission also made a visit to Barry J, and came back with an equally disquieting picture.

Based on what the commission members subsequently reported in a letter to LA County Probation Chief Terri McDonald, which was also sent to all five members of the county’s board of supervisors, Ford wasn’t exaggerating at all.

WitnessLA has talked to our sources both inside the troubled juvenile hall, and others with direct knowledge of conditions at the facility, who confirmed the situation portrayed by Ford and the five commissioners who visited the hall on Saturday—Betsy Butler, Randy Herbon, Joe Gardner  Jan Levine, and Azael “Sal” Martinez-Sonoqui.


Exhausted officers and staff members quitting

According to both accounts, a huge part of the problem at the hall is the fact that there are reportedly too few staff members on duty each day to safely care for the youth in their charge.

Those working at Barry J say that staffing shortages are not just inconvenient, but  have reached what Ford described as “dangerous levels.”

Many units reportedly don’t have the necessary back-up officers, or are being overseen by one officer, when there should be two, so that if something goes wrong in the unit, there’s often no one to assist.

Each day, a surprising number of employees are calling in sick or on disability, thus  leave the staffing critically short, according to Ford’s report, and the accounts given to the probation commissioners, and to WLA.

Furthermore, employees are reportedly quitting or seeking transfers at an unusually rapid rate.

Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall

As a consequence, the staff who come to work, hoping to do a good job, are reportedly often held over for far longer than usual hours, which eventually results in exhaustion and what appears to be burnout for many.

Furthermore, officers reported not feeling safe in the facility.

Based on our own research, this was reported by veteran officers as well as the newer staff members.


Kids out of control

Matters are reportedly made worse daily due to the fact that the kids in the facility are frequently out of control, threatening to assault officers, making “lewd remarks,” and in general behaving with increasing violence.

There was a recent report of a kid pulling a phone off the wall and breaking it. In other cases, kids broke windows. (The probation commissioners reported seeing door windows boarded up “due to youth having thrown chairs through them,” and noted that other windows that had been “broken and repaired.”)

…an officer in tears in the unit, experiencing some kind of temporary melt down…

In another case, the observers reported walking in on an officer who who was in tears in the unit, experiencing some kind of temporary melt down because of what a kid in the unit had done.  We were also able to confirm this report.

Added to the violent incidents, are reports that when a violent incident occurs, they are often dealt with poorly.

According to two sources, one boy reportedly assaulted a female staff member with a chair, but rather than being transferred to another juvenile hall, or at the very least, to a different unit in the facility, he was instead sent back to the same unit, which a probation source explained is a strategy that is emotionally problematic for both the youth who did the assaulting, the officer who was assaulted—and for other kids in the unit.

…serious violence, vandalism, or routine disrespect and disregard of instructions…

When there are fights between kids, Detention Service Officers (DSOs) reportedly don’t feel they have adequate tools or training to control the situation, and to institute appropriate “consequences” when kids engage in “serious violence, vandalism, or routine disrespect and disregard of instructions.”

Matters are not helped by the fact that a high percentage of the youth sent to the Sylmar facility are in need of mental health services, which according to the probation commissioners “are not available to them in a way that is meaningful,” because Barry J’s mental health staff are, like the rest of the staff, reportedly too few in number to give the needed services to the facilities’ population, and thus are extremely over-extended.


Lack of training

When asked for solutions both officers and supervisors repeatedly said that that they have not received proper training to effectively deal with the kids in their care.

As a consequence, new officers are reportedly “scared” to approach youth and “confront them about their negative behaviors.”

Veteran officers too are not confronting minors when they act out, according to Ford, “out of fear of going under investigation and face the possibility of losing their jobs.”

Our sources made similar observations.

“They were afraid they’d be written up.”

For instance, in the recent past there was a rise in use of pepper spray in some of the juvenile facilities. But now many officers in Sylmar are reportedly fearful of using pepper spray at all.

In a recent situation, according to one of our sources, when a group of kids began “trashing the unit and breaking things,” a supervisor reportedly told staff members to use pepper spray.

“But they refused,” our source told us. “They were afraid they’d be written up.”


Not just any training, the right training

Of course, newly hired detention service officers first must go through weeks of instruction at the department’s training academy, and there are updates on the training.

…if you don’t find a way to connect to them, you’re in trouble…

“But, see, the academy is ‘yes, sir, no sir,’ Marine training,” said a veteran officer at Barry J. “The new hires aren’t trained to speak to the kids.” They don’t learn “how to engender trust,”  and similar skills that are essential for their daily work.

“You have to make that connection with these kids,” he said. “In the end, they’re children.” So if you don’t find a way to connect to them, “you’re in trouble.”

Interestingly, in the last year or so, the department did provide a group of officers at Barry J with a kind of highly-regarded interactive training method that is part of the  ‘Youth in Custody Practice Model,” and similar to the training given to the staff members in the department’s new model facility, Campus Kilpatrick. This method is also favored by the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University, which has reportedly been helping LA County Probation to implement the training system.

“The staff who had that training loved it, and found it very useful,” said our sources.

But from what we were told, the well-liked new training was never repeated for other Barry J. personnel.


Teachers and volunteers also worried

Ford and others reported that both teachers and some of the facilities’ longtime volunteers were expressing serious concerns for the safety of the kids, as well as for themselves.

Some teachers, like the officers, reportedly told Ford they were “afraid of being assaulted” by kids and “are cussed out on a regular basis.”

WLA also heard reports about veteran teachers who used to bring various kinds of teaching aids, supplies, and equipment of their own into the classroom in order to make what they taught more interesting for the youth. But now those same teachers  no longer feel such niceties are either safe or practical.

Longtime volunteers reported similar fears.

“I’ve never seen it the way it is right now,” said one of our sources at the hall. “But people still come to the job, and still try.” For a lot of those working at Barry J., he said, “the work is still a calling.”

Yet, at the same time, most staff fear that no one in management is listening to their concerns, sources told us.


Taking action

With all of the above in mind, on Sunday night, four of the probation commissioners who visited Barry J on Saturday sent an urgent report (that WLA has obtained) to Probation Chief Terri McDonald, and to the offices of all five members of the Board of Supervisors.

“It was our unanimous consensus,” the commissioners wrote, “that the conditions in the Hall are extremely unsafe both for the youth housed there and for the staff. The facility is a ticking time bomb. If both immediate and more long-term changes are not made as quickly as humanly possible, someone in that facility is going to be seriously injured, or the hall will erupt in group violence.”

44 Comments

  • One question that did not get asked was when did things start getting worse? Was it when Terri McDonald took over? Rumors ( yes rumors ) she was terrible at the state level. She destroyed custody for the sheriff’s department. Deputies were afraid to do their job for fear of an investigation. Sound familiar. Now look the same thing is happening again. But I don’t understand Terri had soooo much experience when she interviewed with the BOS. She was going to be the one to change things around not make them worse.

    Just like Mcbuckles

    C. Any information on when the situation started to get worse than it already was?

  • u and your stories SUCK! So Ford was EXAGGERATING due to negotiations? it was only true once the probation commissioners confirmed it huh? Stop it! Barry J has been unsafe for quite some time. Why? Because people like you and all of those child advocates want to treat these minors as though juvenile hall is disneyland. There are NO consequences that’s why they throw chairs at officers, threaten officers, etc. and nothing happens. Officers need to be able to escort minors to their rooms for time out, being kicked out of school, etc. but minors REFUSE and threaten to file false allegations on a daily basis. Why again? Because this kid friendly, disneyland, deescalate environment that many want DOESN’T WORK. Minors should be written up, that write up should go to the probation officer as well as the judge. If a judge gets wind of inappropriate behavior, there should be consequences, but everyone wants to give them a slap on the wrist instead of teaching dignity, respect for law enforcement and opportunities to improve the behavior. Terry McDonald doesn’t care about us. She’s too busy terminating veteran officers over paperwork. We need those veterans to teach the new people how it’s done, but no they’d rather fire everyone and falsely accuse them of lying on paperwork which is simply not the case. The academy needs to be revamped to provide real life scenarios to better deal with the realities of the job. Terry McDonald needs to GET OUT NOW!!!! The Kirby model isn’t even working because it’s unrealistic. Minors have destroyed the multi million dollar facility. Allowing juveniles to call officers by first names and wearing ‘non threatening’ clothing is a JOKE! Show some respect by using Mr. and Miss. Allow officers to institute plans instead of advocates, Board of Supervisors and Probation Commissioners who have nothing to do with the job. Officers lives are on the line DAILY. These minors are not angels. They can turn their lives around, but not when they get to misbehave, throw chairs at officers, assault officers and threaten. It’s unacceptable. The advocates created this situation and shame on them. Things are out of control and we don’t need to read a story saying Ford exaggerated. Knock it off!

  • The major problem are the advocates and politicians who create laws in which place all personnel at risk. There is no consequences for minors, I agree we need to rehabilitate, but to believe we can save all is naive. In addition lack of staff and proper training is a reoccurring issue, especially at BJNJH.

  • This department is reactive, not proactive. Everyday there’s new rules and regulations in hopes that it will make things better, and it doesn’t. Probation is hiring younger, timid, and physically weaker staff with college degrees to deal with troubled youth and it’s just NOT working. Staff need to relate to the kids and be role models, not be scared of them. The staff that are coming in have no life experiences or the slightest clue how to do the job. There is no training once you make it to the facility, there’s no supervisor presence or support. The kids are running the facility, staff are getting assaulted daily . Kids need boundaries, consistency, and positive reinforcements for GOOD Behavior. I can honestly say right now kids are not safe because there is no group control. We have minors who have committed murder, rape, robbery and they are going home with a slap on the wrist. So what did this child learn? I can commit any crime and get away with it because I am under 18. So kids keep committing crimes and enter the facility with a sense of entitlement. Superintendents are coming in and not listening to what their line staff have to say. Moral is down, appreciate your staff!

    • Then they let these kids out when they turn 18 then they become the next generation of prisoners in the system…… I know from a fact because one of their so called reformed kids did just that he murdered my daughter and his son… he was out for only 4 yrs. Now he is serving a life sentence for murdering a cell mate in Oregon. I keep praying to God that he never stands trial here in California for murdering my daughter and grandson. Since Jerry Brown sign into law that anyone who has a life sentence an has serve 25 years of that sentence and is over 60 years old will be released from prison.

  • So great to hear from probation officers on the front lines. Of course witness la has done everything in its power to make conditions at BJNJH every bit as awful as they currently are. One of the funnier/ pathetic stories was pretty much about Celeste roaming a facility ,causing quite a bit of mischief and generally making a pain of herself. Of course the poor probation officers who were stuck with the job of babysitting her were rewarded with a rather negative article basically implying how awful/racist/brutal they all are. Not a lot of self awareness goin on at clueless la.

  • Probation is no longer law enforcement it’s a punching bag for these criminal minors who kill rape assault etc (the advocates don’t think about the victims these minors leave out in our society rather that the minors are the victims and need chips and video games inside the hall and camps )

    • That is the BMP program. Give them treats and they will act right. what a JOKE. A minor gets in a gang related fight at school he get sent to the office only to get treats and a phonecall only to find out more gang related incidents has happened in the neighborhood. Then the cycle repeats itself. Non they say it’s a mental health issue. I’m sorry to say people. But this stuff we are doing at this time is NOT WORKING. Maybe if the BOS and the Chief took a board for a day they would see the real. But don’t have the staff go im and wax the floors and give all the minors new cloths. This s*** need to be real life in the facilities

  • I realize Ms. Fremon that you have discovered a interesting platform which in its most simplest form provides communities and readers alike access to a possibly out of control system. Let me pass this along to you and many other readers that the job that Probation does is much deeper to the core than you could possibly imagine. For starters, the Probation Officers , Detention Officers, and Management spend more time with these kids than any other stakeholder. Your articles have sparked interest and have caused damage double sided sword. Lapd and Sheriffs bring the kids in and probably spend a few hours at most. Court can go up to 6 hours. DMH will do their rounds for a few hours a week. LACOE has the kids for the 300 minutes but a probation officer is right there. We have all these outside stakeholders who laying down the criticism who have spent ZERO hours with the kids. Who do you think would be more effective? As other entities such as yours and coalition groups form around the Probation Department, they need to understand that the Probation Department is deeply embedded to battle and correct gang intrenched youth, drug users, abused , battered, and simply lost youth who cannot find the will or education to share their frustrations, desires, and dreams for their future. Who has been the sponge for all that negativity? The Probation Department. Whats unfair is that Ms. Fremon you don’t express the same intensity for the positive side of this Department. And to be quite honest, all of these stakeholders trying to control and make this department a project still have not heard the deeper realities that exist in order to promote social change within a probationer’s life. For everyone one big witness article , you could have had 10 positive ones. The officers who shared their concerns and feelings are those who opened themselves to all of those changes and are tasked to filter it out to have balance in their lives. The Probation Department has gotten the message loud and clear “Help the kids”, increase professionalism, and work collaboratively with our stakeholders. I would ask respectfully that you honor the officers. There is great story not being told about the successes. The community can always count on the Probation Department. Set some clear goals and let the department do its due diligence. Develop a relationship with your readers because now that you decided to be a part of this Probation world, you will be held responsible for those effects as well.

  • BJNJH is no worse than the other halls, we just have Officers that are fed up enough to speak up. It’s about time because the same kids that are breaking laws in the community get detained in juvenile and is allowed to continue assaulting and breaking laws in juvenile hall. So often are we stopped from writing, reporting, and filing reports in the courts.
    Terri is terrible and stuck in a bubble. Mitchell is out of touch and doesn’t have a clue how dangerous it is for the staff and the youth. The article doesn’t do it justice,’you would have to spend about a week there to get a good Glipse of the dysfunction and lack of leadership around the place. It’s really BAD.
    And they are right, you start pepper spraying you get written up for over spraying, you start restraining get fired for excessive force, you can’t charge the kids with new charges, you can’t put them in their rooms. All staff hands are tied and the kids run the facility. It’s the worse place I’ve ever worked in my life and I’m working to get out.

  • Barry J has a bunch of Seniors and DSO sitting behind a desk doing clerical work. Those are the so called staff that are scared and they protect for some odd reason. So when you say short staff you have plenty of staff sitting around doing clerical work. Mind you these staff make up there own hours, aren’t accountable like the rest of the officers and refuse to go work buildings when told to do so. They go running to the DOJ supervisor / director who in return scolds the officer requesting help. In return the supervisor / director wants a full detailed report asking why there officers were pulled from there clerical position to help out other staff in buildings. If justification is not made then the officer requesting help is threaten to be written up. Administration does not help at all. They are the ones constantly threatening staff to be fired or written up you even have supervisors refusing to work certain positions in the halls To the point of even providing Dr. notes that they cannot perform certain supervisor duties.

  • The reporter failed to do their research. The problems at BJNJH are also happening at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall and Central Juvenile Hall. Assaults on the officers who work at the juvenile halls have been steadily increasing over the last 5 years. Youth on youth assaults have doubled since the removal of the SHU. The Los Angeles County Probation department has been turning a blind eye to the escalating problems at all three juvenile halls. The juveniles who are detained at the juvenile halls are not safe because the probation department does not believe in consequences for negative and assaultive behavior. The probation department has failed to keep its officers safe and the juveniles they are sworn to protect.

    • It’s comforting to know these naughty youths are being introduced to and learn they, 1. can do no wrong, 2. are mis-understood and 3. there are no consequences for their actions. This learned and re-enforced behavior makes for a perfectly well-adjusted and respectful adult criminal that acts the same way in county and state.

      The rise in assaults on staff and levels of inmate on inmate assaults has also been on the rise in local jails and the prisons. This site has actually posted pieces that support that. Of course the causal factor is the always due to the staff and never the behavior of the individual.

      The LA County jails have benefited greatly from the wise, progressive and stellar leadership of former CDCR executives……choke.

  • This is the same news source that reported shu units were overused. Its even the sane commissioner that advocated for us to close all shus. Then act surprised that its unsafe. The hypocrisy of having concern is is shocking to me

    • I think they should of kept the SHU, Because speaking as a past juvenile who’s has repeatedly been incarcerated and was well known in The 3 facilities for being very aggressive and combative I personally think the Lock Up method did work!!

      • I remember you. You were definitely a handful. I had to restrain you twice. I’m glad to know that your hindsight is that we were doing the right thing to control your behavior.

  • Bring back regimentation!!! I am sorry, but as a staff now and former minor in these facilities, I can honestly say that I see the difference. Staff quoting in droves due to lack of training for sure, but also you guys are hiring people who have degrees and can pass a credit check. Where is the street smarts? Oh we cant keep kids in the room? Oh yes… leave them up…. they refuse to go to thier room when they are supposed to? Oh sure… leave them up… give them a phone call… bribe them with food…. there are no consequences…. veteran staff not promoted and punished for doing thier jobs…. newer staff promoting faster …. the veteran staff are tired…. and so are the newer staff….. shortages are because of all the staff riding post positions for years…. I give up! You want things back in shape? Give us regimentation and the SHU! Give us back consequences!!!

  • Let’s not forget all the DSO’s that are assigned to headquarters that could be put back into the juvenile hall so we will not be shortstaffed. All the officers that are assigned to headquarters are doing clerical work so let’s just hire more clerical And get all these officers back in the hall so they can help us out and not be shortstaffed

  • Jesus, gentlemen (and Maj. kong), do not shoot the messenger. Ms. Fremon is merely reporting. Of course, as usual, the wise Maj. Kong knows all.

    Scout, you state the “Probation Officers , Detention Officers, and Management spend more time with these kids..” Yeah, OK. Is that not what they are paid for? And, you want the positive side portrayed, that is your job for god’s sake. Your pay should be sufficient reward. I am beginning to think that everyone that works the “justice”system – LEO, detention, prison guards, etc are a bunch of whiners. Stop it, already. You are doing no one a favor, you are doing a job for which you are getting paid. There are serious problems, and some, not all, revolve around some of the employees that do or do not do their job.

    • You haven’t supervised a murderer or a rapist who preys on young children . You haven’t done a house check with only pepper spray on your belt. You haven’t walked the streets of skid row looking for thst one life you know was about to go down for good. You haven’t seen our kids in camps or the halls finally have the breakthrough thst was needed to save their life. You haven’t seen officers time and time again create a truly nurturing environment under a well structured system. Some of things Probation does for its probationers are priceless . Yet , you argue just enjoy the great pay . Whining? Please don’t get it twisted . Some of the officers have worked with the most dangerous teenagers from the most notorious gangs in la . Sorry to burst your bubble but organized crime may not be a clear to you but it’s all there . They have gotten smarter and more sophisticated . How many 187’s will be 15 and younger because their big homies know they won’t be tried as adults . The big picture is that Malibu and the prestigious communities of Los Angeles don’t have to deal with these probation matters . Those are politicians with a much bigger compensation but they are corralling all these at risk probationers into certain areas to suppress . Please miss me with the 15th and 30th. You and anyone with your line of thinking trying to undermine the job reflects you know how critical the job is. In addition , instead of taking a supportive standpoint you just wanted to stick out just to stick out. As I said, don’t insult the intelligence of the Probation Department. Thanks for being thankless CF

    • CF – I think the point of Scout’s comment was that DSO’s in the halls and DPO’s in camps spend more time with these kids than any judge, attorney, advocate, mental health staff or volunteer and that staff concerns should be heard and taken as seriously as issues raised by anyone else.

      The Chief Probation Officer is appointed by the Board and cannot call for a press conference as the Sheriff can, to publicize our positive accomplishments. Most people do not understand the job of a DSO or DPO in Los Angeles; so yes, in addition to sharing concerns, it would be nice for some public education to occur to promote understanding. What’s wrong with that?

      Of course there are some problem staff…that’s the case in all large organizations. We want them removed too – but that’s not what has occurred. McDonald has created an environment where thoughtful assessment of the facts leading to an appropriate conclusion is essentially nonexistent. If your professional reputation and ability to feed your family was at stake, would you not want to be treated fairly?

      Some of the concerns here, or whining as you call it, has to do with the fact that working conditions are needlessly dangerous. Would you fault coal miners for worrying about dangerous conditions in a mine, or tell them to shut up and just to their job? These youth are not leaving better off than they arrived, due to conditions that could be changed – but aren’t – due to politics. That sets them up for life as an inmate and to next be a tax payer burden with LASD and then CDCR. For both humanitarian and practical reasons, that’s not a win for anyone. So if efforts to change this cycle by speaking up bother you, then please check your values, not ours.

  • CF: Do you really think we do these jobs for the money? Almost every one of your posts mentions our compensation. Contrary to your naive and evil thinking, we actually do our jobs because we care about our communities. Especially the kids.

    I know several Probation Officers and others that work at these facilities. THEY CARE. They truly want the best for these kids in need. You, Celeste and Taylor only care about tearing us down. You do it with EVERY post.

    To all the Probation Officers, stay the course, the kids need you.

    Scout, if you think people like Celeste and Taylor (and CF) give a Rats Ass about you or the kids you’re trying to help, think again.

  • Keep voting Democrat people. You made your bed now lay in it. Democrats = LIBERAL IDIOTS … like the ones running your department! Repercussions and holding kids accountable for their actions? those are conservative practices. That is the Republican way people. I Believe it was Obama and his cronies that went around dismantling our special handling unit. Keep voting Democrat Californians things will only get worse in your department!!! Bluuuuuuuuueeeeeee Fluuuuuuuuuu
    Get your point across. Force the directors to run your boards. Watch how fast they change things after LITTLE PUPPET goes off because he didn’t get his snack and spits in their face

  • The problem is with the BOS. They really don’t follow up on department managers. They take their word for reports that are untruthful at best. Criminal at worst, while undermining those who do the job. This is not new I have spent decades looking into this. Appointments to the Chief Probation Officers position have been poorly managed. They have appointed a series of managers unfit and self promoting while care for wards of the courts and staffing suffered.

  • I worked in the system for nearly 30 years until my retirement a few years ago, so I am in the position to compare the way it is now to how it was in the early ’80s when I started. When various children’s advocate groups and the DOJ stuck their noses into the mix, it was the beginning of the end of what had been a highly structured and very successful system. None of those outside groups had a clue what works and what doesn’t work, but somehow they had the power to demand changes and get them enforced. That included disallowing searches of the boys, even when they were returning from being transported from another site for medical care or a court appearance. These outside “experts” then went on their way and left us to deal with the consequences of their very poor judgements. These groups basically took away our leverage, and gave the kids the tools to control every facet of the organization. A kid could make up some accusation against one of the staff, and then that staff is pulled off duty until there is an investigation. That then would leave the shift shorthanded. I recall once when there were only four officers on a shift that normally kept twelve. The eight that were not on line duty were men who were being investigated, and the four officers on duty were women managing dozens of 16 to 18 year old boys.

    As for the SHU, during my later years on the job, it was hardly punishment. To the contrary, having some time locked up in their own room gave the boys the privacy they wanted for a while, where they could sleep in silence, go to school during the day (in the SHU), or NOT go if they preferred to stay in their room and read or sleep. There were always bleeding-heart staff who would make it as pleasant as possible by allowing the boys to spend time in the rec room watching TV or DVDs or playing table games. I have a feeling SHUs were closed because somebody found the concept offensive without looking into how it really was.

    One of the most harmful changes was the implementation of mountains of required paper work for the staff who are directly in charge of the kids. There isn’t enough time to get it all done. Unfortunately, one way to reduce the paper work is to turn a blind eye to misbehaviors that should have been confronted, and would have been if it didn’t mean an additional hour of filling out forms.

  • welcome to orwellian LA county where criminals = victims, citizens = oppressors, and
    law enforcement = criminals.

    Guess our politically correct “chiefs” haven’t worked the magic they promised. But what do they care, their still gettin paid!! Next step: close all camps and halls. Crime will obviously go down. Why? Who keeps crime stats anymore??? Please lord let me make it to 30 years!!

  • I have been working with these youth for over 12 years and in the last 2-3 years things have gotten considerably bad. As many have mentioned they are hiring people that have no clue who n how to work with this population. You have 21 years old watching units filled 18 and 20 year old detainees. Sure they pass a credit check, but they have no clue in how to connect with these kids. They need people that can relate to these kids. When you see them acting a fool let them know; instead of smiling and literally looking the other way. When they are in the classroom being disruptive, breaking pencils and then throwing them at other minors, ask them to stop instead of just sitting there looking like a statue. Thee kids need boundaries and consistency. If we are to rehabilitate them and give them the tools needed to be introduced back into society; letting them act up, be disrespectful and make threats is not the way. They need to be told no, they need to be held accountable for their actions. You threaten a teacher or staff you need to be written up, that write needs to make it to court. This small things are what makes a difference. Consistency, transparency and communication. If you’re scared of the minors there is no way you will ever make the impact needed in order for them to learn and maybe turn their life around. The hiring process, and the way consequences or lack there of need to change. There are people that work here that truly do care, that want these kids to learn from their mistakes and move on in life. Hopefully changes will be made so that staff can be the mentors they are meant to be, which means saying “NO”’to a minor as well letting them know when they acting a fool. Actually allowing the people that work them make a difference in their life by giving them direction and boundaries.

  • Youth in custody practice model doesn’t work it’s smoke and mirrors. Probation Chief and county supervisors are on board with limiting mass incarceration of repeat offenders and putting community’s at risk. Camp programs have been reduced to temporary stays with zero behavior correction or staff are penalized for suspected child abuse for confronting negative or assaultive behavior. County Probation is positively moving in the wrong direction and putting staff and community’s at risk.

  • Youth in custody practice model doesn’t work it’s smoke and mirrors. Probation Chief and county supervisors are on board with limiting mass incarceration of repeat offenders and putting community’s at risk. Camp programs have been reduced to temporary stays with zero behavior correction or staff are penalized for suspected child abuse for confronting negative or assaultive behavior. County Probation is positively moving in the wrong direction and the public is completely unaware!

  • These people are holding us over 2-3 times a week. That’s 3 16 hour shifts a week. It’s not healthy and I know co-workers who have actually been in car accidents from being so tired. Management does not care. We also have kids to take care of and when we have nobody to care for them they still hold us over and say too bad. Something needs to be done here. This is not a healthy work environment.

    • WOW…sounds like the Sheriff’s Department. Overworked, tired and under-staffed seems to be the norm for those who work in direct contact line positions in the County’s Probation and Sheriff’s Departments.

      Maybe if the unions came together and filed a class action law-suit alleging an unsafe work environment and executives fostering jeopardy to the safety of the staff, the shear numbers might get someone to pay attention.

      • @ Conspiracy: Ask the worker Bee’s as to how they really feel about the unions and allow them to tell you the truth. The unions are weak and most of the Deputies and Probation Officers are unaware of the latest SCOTUS ruling. If the Union President’s told them that Agency Shop no longer exists it would financially decimate most unions.

        • Yeah…I think most folks are worried about being left alone and un-represented. The old saying, “divided we stand, united we fall” , coupled with the fact the County Departments play really dirty ball when it comes to how it treats its employees. If LASPA or another you with “bite” came along, things might improve. For know when it comes to union representation, something or a piece of something, is better than nothing I guess.

  • GSN…. Just like I said to Scout. If you think your Brass, Celeste, Taylor or CF give a Rats Ass about your, you’re wrong.

    LASD is in the same boat. Mandatory 4-6 Overtime spots a month plus “Drafts” on your days off and/or holdovers. Stay the course, those kids need you. Watch each other’s backs, cause nobody else will.

  • There is a lot of issues, I have worked at BJNJH for many years, but what everyone has failed to address is the lack of leadership. I am currently at another Juvenile Hall, and although we have issues it is not the same. This Hall has always been the best that exist, but it began to deteriorate once superintendent Janice Jones was assigned to oversee it. Her bullying towards all the staff including other agencies caused a horrendous lack of support and confusion, although we are all advocates for children, her hypocrisy is what caused her removal. As fast as she came she left, as well as all of her Buddies. The culture at the site is a beautiful one, everyone knows each other and help each other, it currently is not the same due to the damage she has instilled. They are many good people still left there, with the right people in leadership positions we could make the site great again and help truly our adolescents.

    • Let me guess…..you are female, Hispanic, a member of LACCEA and on a special assignment? You, those two unethical directors and all your cronies have been running this facility on the backs of the line staff for years. It was all fun and games until she came in and started putting people back on line, making people work for a change instead of sitting up in admin having parties and feasts while we were getting assaulted by the minors. She brought in some great new supervisors that all of you undermine. How many people have quit since you guys made up the false lies to get her out? About a dozen? More? And the ones I talked to all said because they no longer have support and are scared. How many people went back on special assignment, leaving the rest of us with mandatory holdovers? What do the numbers of PIRs and assaults look like since you got rid of her? And we are being told that they are bringing back that same director who created this hell hole. I’m neither female nor Hispanic so i guess I will continue to hope I go home at the end of each shift in one piece. Nor can I be bribed with LACCEA money to lie. So let’s talk facts, Castro, and not about your feelings. I can’t wait to get the hell out of here. Karma is a bitch and the rest of us will be watching when you all finally get caught

      • @Really – Amen and good for you. A shame Jones was not supported. She tried to make things better. I hope that those that lied are identified and fired.

  • Newsflash: Our unions are basically powerless in 2 regards when it comes to this issue.

    First, they are virtually powerless when it comes to hiring. They don’t dictate recruiting budgets, standards or efforts. Our brass and the BOS does.

    Second, our respective departments and the brass that runs them dictate minimum staffing levels. In the jails and camps, the state and feds have some input. The unions have none and are powerless to dictate remedies. The can recommend, but change is up to the brass and the politicians.

    • Recommendations by unions should be presented if nothing else to be on record.

      No voice, no change……mark my words.

  • This is sad but no surprise. Working conditions at the halls and camps have been poor for years and are clearly declining. Hard to believe that things are better at any of the other facilities.

    The Probation Department has long engaged in change for the sake of change; because the Board gets upset, an advocate gets upset, DOJ lands on the doorstep, someone reads the latest study, etc. All the Department has done for over a decade is constantly modify casework/record requirements, use of force rules and supervision practices. The paperwork required is staggering. Endless training for the latest popular concepts – resulting in endless change and endless chaos. A recipe for instability.

    The changes imposed have moved halls and camps from a boot camp approach to the mirror opposite, where there are essentially no sanctions imposed that mean anything to the youth. To resolve incidents and avoid uses of force, most staff cajole youth with treats or look the other way, as opposed to teaching them that there are consequences they won’t like for not following the rules.

    Judges would be horrified if they knew how these kids really act. The Department has created many roadblocks to notifying judges about serious youth misconduct. It takes permission at the highest levels (not easy to get) to file a petition alleging new criminal charges (drug possession, assault on staff, etc) or a probation violation due to chronic misconduct.

    Youth need structure and want to feel safe. The second Probation stopped practices that contributed to them feeling secure, the gangs started informally running the facilities. While often under-educated, many of these youth are not stupid. Unless at school, they have nothing else to do but listen to and watch staff. They figured out long ago that staff are running scared of being accused of misconduct (as they will invariably be deemed guilty) and do not trust the Department. As a result, acts of open defiance and attacks on staff escalated.

    The other side of that coin is that staff feel like they work in a war zone and are unsupported, so they are eager to call out with the slightest illness, or to take as much time off as possible if injured. Some resign and most transfer out as soon as they can, sometimes to other agencies. As already noted, those that do come to work are often required to work past their scheduled departure time due to ongoing staff shortages. Chronic fatigue and dealing with defiant youth are not a wise combination. So when the staff that are routinely working unscheduled extra hours snap and say something politically incorrect to one of these kids, they are then placed under investigation and are typically disciplined. Hard for them to feel much loyalty.

    The tragic end result of all this is that these kids leave no better, or perhaps worse, than when they arrived.

    The Board and poor upper management selections are to blame for this mess. The Board does not want a strong Chief. They want a puppet – and those puppets have been terribly destructive.

    If the Department had a strong Chief with some common sense and the Board would stop their micro-management, this mess could be repaired. The focus of detention should be on personal growth that will afford delinquent youth the tools they need to be a functioning adult in the community – accountability for misconduct, intensive academic assistance, job training, mental health assistance and rewards for improved behavior.

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