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Is a Federal Consent Decree Coming for LA’s Juvie Probation Camps?

December 14th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


This past Friday the Federal monitors representing US Department of Justice delivered their 145 page response
to LA County Probation’s claims that its juvenile camps were mostly “In compliance” with the Feds’ 41 demands for reform spelled out four years ago in a 2008 Memorandum of Agreement.

Not so fast, said the monitors in the report— which WitnessLA has acquired.

When, on November 6, 2006, the US Department of Justice began investigating LA’s juvenile probation camps, investigators found the facilities rife with horrors. Probation officers batted kids around, instigated fights (some of which were caught on video and wound up on YouTube) or looked the other way when one group of kids pounded another. Staff also made kids stand or sit in body-stressing positions for long periods, kept them in solitary confinement for even longer periods as punishment, randomly denied them bathroom breaks, recreational time and/or medical treatment, failed to check on kids who were on suicide watch, pepper sprayed teenagers over trivialities, and drank alcohol on the job—among other transgressions and illegalities.

Now, said the monitors in the new report, the worst of the rampant abuse and neglect in the camps had pretty much been halted, although there was still lots of room for improvement.

And thankfully the staff, for the most part, wasn’t drinking on the job.

But, after 4 years under the watchful eye of the Department of Justice, although most kids weren’t being actively abused, they weren’t being helped either, said the monitors, particularly when it came to mental and emotional health, substance abuse—and overall rehabilitation. Probation has little or nothing in the way of positive outcomes to show for its supposed progress in these areas. And in many of the camps they have they don’t have the required rehabilitative programs in place at all.

“These camps are not meant to be punishment for the kids we send there,” said a source close to the federal monitors. “They’re supposed to rehabilitate. And that’s still not happening.”

So now the big question is: Will the Feds take over the the juvenile facilities with a Federal Consent Decree?

Observers are split on whether the Feds will step in— or will they give probation one more chance now that Probation has a brand new head guy, Chief Jerry Powers, who started last Monday.

LA County Board of Supervisors has a committee of staffers meeting today, Wednesday, to discuss the Fed monitors’ comments and instructions—and what, if anything, to do in response.



After the $1.2-million golden parachute handed to HACLA’s ousted head, and jaw-dropping spending for trips, meals and “employee incentives,” the LA City Council thinks maybe there should be a bit more city oversight of the agency. (Ya think?)

The LA Times David Zahniser and Jessica Garrison have the story.

Controller Wendy Greuel also has a new report on the drunken-sailor-spending HACLA folks.

Posted in Civil Rights, juvenile justice, LA County Board of Supervisors, Probation | 8 Comments »

8 Responses

  1. Answering The Question Says:

    Completely off topic

    President Obama today at Fort Bragg

    “All the fighting and all the dying, the bleeding and the building,and the training and the partnering, all of it has led to this moment of success. Now Iraq’s not a perfect place. It has many challenges ahead, but we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq”.

    Alas, only he could get away with making every anti-war protester look foolish, and only he could get them to continue supporting him and the war effort.

  2. jim hitchcock Says:

    Wouldn’t it be something if Jerry Powers hired Gregory Boyle as counsel to the chief?

  3. dogxxl Says:

    Wouldn’t be something if each parent with a kid in camp was held accountable for being an insufficient parent!

  4. Celeste Fremon Says:

    Jim, Yep, that would be GREAT!

    Dogxxl, that’s….a tad… dumb. (However, I like your screen name.)

  5. DCCacrossUS Says:

    The camps are supposed to “rehabilitate?” Better check your facts before you make a dumb comment like that. The camps ARE punishment, as the juveniles have been sentenced to serve time for their crime there. The ONLY rehabilitation center for minors is AFTER they get released and go “on probation.” You can’t rehabilitate someone and then have the become remorseful for their crime at the same time. That’s why juveniles NEED punishment for their crimes first and then be given options once they get released to keep them from coming back. The staff at the halls and camps cannot maintain adequate security for the minors if they are working on a “rehabilitation” program. Minors in gangs with enemies will always look for a way to disrupt the order of the institutions as long as they are all together in the same place. The staff are not dealing with “normal” juveniles. Some of these minors are hardened criminals who will make “crime” a careerpath. When they get out, they need more job assistance programs, school vouchers, grants for colleges, and maybe even some athletic training gyms dedicated towards troubled youth. Trying to do these things WHILE they are locked up will always be insufficient and continue to be a financial waste for tax payers. I say the DOJ should knock on the doors of the residence of these minors and let the officers do their job!

  6. Smokey Says:

    Completely off topic:

    4 more years! Bin Laden dead. Iraq War ended. Cleaning
    Bush’s mess, one day at a time.

  7. Don't Smoke Says:

    Completely off topic:

    Just in time for a new election. Didn’t do squat for 3 years.

  8. » Blog Archive » Probation Chief Jerry Powers and 4 Probation Unions Get into A Very Ugly Battle Says:

    [...] the same level of ghastly staff behavior that brought the feds in 2006, are still, by and large, not places you would send a kid you cared about and expect him or her to be….you [...]

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