DOJ Blinks, Gives County’s Juvie Probation Camps a New 2014 Deadline for Reforms & No Consent Decree—Despite Discouraging Lack of ProgressOctober 26th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon
It was reported to us this week that, instead of slapping the LA County Department of Probation with a nice fat federal consent decree over its chronic inability to fix 41 “areas of concern” in LA’s juvenile probation camps that the DOJ blinked, and instead gave us yet another extension to make the agreed upon fixes.
(The cynical among us might say that such a pronounced unwillingness to hold anybody accountable defines the term enabling, but, sure, hey, yeah, why not. Carry on!)
Here’s a little back story taken from the post we wrote last December on this very same issue:
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?
Answer to that question: Clearly not.
And ten months later, has anything improved? Uh, not really, according to the newest response from the feds. The camps still don’t have the needed rehabilitative programs for the kids in their custody.
Moreover, in some areas things might be getting worse. The monitors reported that in the next assessment they expect four of the areas that were previously in compliance—to have back-slid out of complience. Alarmingly, these areas are in the arenas of:
1. the staff’s excessive use of force against kids.
2. the staff’s “use of practices such as slamming’ or “assuming the bob-sled
position’ for punitive or abusive purposes”
3. the “reduction of youth on youth violence,” and..
4. “record keeping” to make sure there was adequate tracking of when kids were given medications and their side effects, which kids were given “psychotropic medications,” and “adequate tracking to identify youth receiving mental health services.”
Seriously, after 5 years, staff still can’t manage to stop slamming kids against walls, making them assume stress positions as punishment, can’t keep them reasonably safe from aggressively pounding each other, and can’t keep adequate track of who’s being given what medication and has received what mental health services.
It’s honestly hard to know what to say.
More on this next week.