Board of Supervisors Juvenile Probation LA County Board of Supervisors

LA County Supes Want to Know What’s REALLY Going on in County’s Juvenile Camps


Near the end of Tuesday’s LA County Board of Supervisors meeting during which budget talks took up most of the day, the board ordered an extensive fiscal audit of the county’s probation department, looking specifically into the areas in which probation deals with kids.

But, surprisingly, the supes didn’t stop there.

in addition to the audit, which was authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with the support of Supervisor Mike Antonovich, three of the supervisors made it clear they had concerns about probation’s juvenile camps that ran far deeper than what the proposed audit could address.

For example there was “the discrepancy.”

Ridley-Thomas was the first to bring up what he described as the “discrepancy” between the last month’s report stating that LA County’s juvenile probation camps were in “full compliance” with the 73 reforms demanded by the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice, after six years of DOJ oversight, and the startling new report by the county’s auditor-controller released a week ago, which said something very different.

The auditor-controller’s report, said Ridley-Thomas, “suggests in no uncertain terms that probation did not maintain substantial compliance with six of the seven [DOJ] provisions randomly reviewed.”

(WitnessLA broke the news of the Auditor-Controller’s report last week.)

Ridley-Thomas wanted to know the cause of the discrepancy between the two reports, which he called fundamentally important.”I think we have to be clear about the quality of life in the camps as it relates to how those youngsters are faring.”

The camps had certainly improved, Ridley-Thomas acknowledged But it was “problematic” if the situation was being presented as “more improved than, in fact, it actually was. And that was the point of his concerns, he said. “We need a realtime accurate report.”

Supervisor Hilda Solis was up next and said that she too had some serious concerns about probation’s progress in the county’s long-troubled juvenile camps.

Solis told about when she herself had visited the camps, she saw kids who were being “in my opinion, punished” by being put in cells “similar to solitary confinement,” without “good provisions” or “appropriate clothing.” When Solis asked who was overseeing these kids, and how long the youth were supposed to be in these isolating cells, she said she did not get satisfactory answers.

In fact, in the conversations she had with the kids, Solis said, she got “completely different information,” than that she heard from probation staff.

So, although she supported the motion for the audit, she wanted assurances that the auditor-controller had the capabilities of really drilling down and taking to kids. If not, Solis said, she wasn’t sure the motion would get to what she felt was important for the board to know.

“I think it’s very important for us to get feedback from the actual population that we’re serving,” said Solis.

Ridley-Thomas agreed and said the’d amend to motion to reflect Solis’s concerns. “The youngsters who are under supervision have to be part of what is ultimately reported on.”

It was at that point that Supervisor Sheila Kuehl stepped in with an idea that she hoped would address everyone’s concerns.


The auditor-controller could look at “quantitative issues,” she said (e.g. things like what percentage of juvenile camp staff went though this or that required training). And the board should “ask the auditor-controller to do what the auditor-controller does.” Hence the motion.

But the “qualitative” issues must be addressed another way. With this in mind, Keuhl proposed that when the board returns from its upcoming trip to Washington D.C., it should “figure further ways to take the place of the [D.O.J] monitors.” A place to start, she suggested, would be to “take a real look” at the Juvenile Probation Outcomes Study released last month (WLA reported on the study here)

Keuhl noted that the 155-page report addressed a number of “qualitative issues” like “keeping kids out of he system,” the need for substance abuse programs, mental health issues, education, “the issue of whether there’s solitary confinement or not, which I think many of us are very concerned about,” and so on.

“It’s a very good thing for the D.O.J. to say we’ve met certain goals. But it would be remiss for the five of us to say, ‘Okay, well, then we’re not going to take any further look at these qualitative issues.'” The board could be good partners on those issues, Keuhl.

Interestingly, while Probation Chief Jerry Powers had originally minimized the significance of the Auditor-Controller’s report about the juvenile camps areas of noncompliance, he now jumped in with his own proactive follow-up to Keuhl’s plan to address the so-called qualitative issues now that the D.O.J. had packed and gone.

Probation was in the final stages of doing the work necessary to bring in a “performance based standards” system that, Powers said, “includes confidential surveys of he kids in custody relative to the quality of food, do they feel safe, are they treated with respect…” Powers suggested that many of the things in these soon-to-launch ongoing surveys may be able to measure some of the issues that Solis brought up.

All in all, it was a remarkably reform-minded turn of events.

We will, obviously, be keeping track of how the issue of board oversight of juvenile probation continues to unfold.


  • This has been a lingering issue for nearly ten years. During that time the Department was known as the “Troubled Probation Department.” And it was justified in so many ways. The daily operation of the juvenile detention facilities was far outside the acceptable national standards of juvenile corrections. The adult side of the Department had numerous high-profile gaffes. Deputized staff were being arrested for criminal activity; but to be fair, this was happening in all LE agencies. Accountability and discipline for employees was non-existent. The strength of the unions controlled the BOS and tied the hands of management in regards to weeding out the unsuitable POs. The BOS hired no fewer that 4 Chiefs. None of them seemed able to turn this around and left after very short tenures. The current Chief came on board in 2011. WitnessLA has produced articles covering continued scandals and how he has dealt with them. He changed upper management to incorporate “untainted” and outside personnel. He promoted some current employees to upper management positions — those without ethical issues. He encouraged others to “hang ’em up.” He removed the Bureau Chiefs that were in place when this stuff occurred. In the past 3 years he and his new team have faced the AB109 issues, the DOJ settlement agreement issues and the ACLU settlement agreement. For 3 years a core of individuals (from upper management down to the lowest sworn staff position) have fought and clawed to change the climate and culture in the department. And the change is incredibly vast and unrecognizable from the past. People worked countless hours, at the expense of their families and their personal lives. Marriages crumbled, holidays were missed, health declined and, sadly, death occurred for some. Yet, the result was the DOJ approving the final product and the projected future. All for the future outcome of incarcerated juveniles in this County. The average reader or follower of the process has no idea of the work that was done. Not because we HAD to, but because we believed that the change is mandated for the future of the citizens of this county. For the humanity. For the fiscal responsibility of the tax dollars.
    And then, a new BOS member takes a trip to ONE camp and sees ONE anomaly. And paints the entire progress with that one experience. Did she go to another location? Did she see if it is widespread? Did she ask to physically observe the progress? Nope, just condemn everyone and every bit of progress.
    Is there work still to be done? Absolutely! Are we still affecting a culture change among long time staff? Yep. Are we excited about new, fresh staff that have a whole new vision. You bet. But it is hard to continue driving this huge project when the only affirmation comes in the form of negative report from one experience.
    I sincerely hope that the Audit is done thoroughly and quickly. We have nothing to hide and a wealth of great results. Please…..come interview the youth that are experiencing the good done by so many. Come…..interact with staff and get their perspective. Be fair in the reporting; give both sides equal coverage.


    Dear LACounty DPO. I really appreciate your informed and very specific comment. If you’d be willing to talk to me WAY off the record, I’d welcome that. Please email me privately, if you are able. I’d love to talk further.


  • LACounty DPO is 100% correct with an intelligent, reasoned post. What these nitwit BOS newbies don’t understand is the kids in camps are there for good reason! Does Solis even know what it takes these days to get a kid placed in camp? In her “interview” with this miscreant did she ever happen to ask or peek at his record?? Of course not! These kids are committing murder, robbery, rape, carjacking, residential burglary,ADW, mayhem, lewd acts and other 707B offenses. They should be “punished.” Since the CYA shut down we get the entire juvenile population to supervise. The problem with these liberal dems is they are quick to to paint the offender as the “victim”while completly ignoring the men, women, and children who suffer at the hands of these fools. Ridley Thomas has always been a buffoon, buts its especially troubling the see the newest “supes” shrieking about things they have no idea about, just to get headlines. Crime is going up and its only gonna get worse. I feel sorry for the county with these boneheads leading the charge

  • DPO2, maybe share facts versus spewing hyperbole. I’ve been to all three camps as well as the majority of camps, and they all suck. Murderers, rapists? Maybe produce the data to back it up. Of course that won’t happen since the department’s data system is a joke. CYA closed? Really? So what are those two youth prisons in Stockton and that one prison in ventura? Oh yah, those are department of juvenile justice prisons (formerly known as CYA). The probation department definitely does not supervise the entire youth population. The majority of 707b’s are sent to DJJ or direct filed to CDCR.

    As for liberals wanting to get your department into compliance, did you forget that Supe Antonovich is a Republican. The department has a responsibility to care for Youth under your care. You are not the military nor are you the LAPD. You were investigated by the feds because your staff was asleep at the wheel all those years taking advantage of youth who had no voice. We live in the U.S., home of a second and third chances. Let’s hope your child never makes a mistake and makes their way into your gulag of a system.

    Lastly, partial reform is not good enough.The entire juvenile injustice system in LA needs to be turned upside down once and for all.

  • You are writing about the camps, but what about the halls? We are understaffed and at Central we don’t have any leadership. Instead we have idiots. Our Superintendent is afraid of the minors, staff, and Directors. Administration at Central is so corrupt, it’s pathetic. Where is the Chief and the board when you need them? And if we try to take our concerns to Downey they fall on deaf ears and we get reprimanded for not keeping the problems in house.

  • Sounds like the Probation Department is ready for a Witness LA in-depth investigation into corruption and coverup. WLA lit the fuse to change for LASD, they can do the same for Probation. Matt, pack your bags, you are back on the payroll at three times the previous salary, money is no object. You and Celeste bulldog this and yet another LA County organization filled with the good old boy syndrome will fall and rebuild. I can see yet another award winning expose’ in the works.

    You folks at Probation, you can trust Celeste, her word is her bond. She can’t report unless you cooperate with facts and evidence, the ball is in your court. When the ugly truth of corruption is exposed, and it will take time, watch the executives in your organization drop like flies and then once the BOS are “forced” to take notice, heads will roll. Do your part.

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