2 Stabbings & 2 drug overdoses at LA juvenile hall, then the county’s Board of Supes asked probation chief to resign

Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall, Sylmar
Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

It has not been a good month for LA County’s youth probation system.

Thursday, February 9, the members of the California Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) presented a report showing that Los Angeles County Probation’s two youth lock-ups — Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall and Central Juvenile Hall — were once again extravagantly out of compliance when it comes to the most basic standards of care and safety for the kids in residence at the two facilities. 

As WitnessLA reported earlier, things are so bad that, if LA County’s Probation’s chief, Adolfo Gonzales, who came into the position as a reformist, continues to fail to meet the state’s marks, the BSCC will have no choice but to declare  Barry J Nidorf and Central juvenile halls “unsuitable for youth habitation,” which means kids may no longer be housed at either facility.

Around that same time,  the already dangerous conditions that the BSCC indicated, went from bad to worse for both kids and staff members at Barry J, as the Sylmar youth facility is called.

Two kids in a row overdosed on contraband narcotics that had been smuggled into the facilities, in some cases (but not all) reportedly by staff, according to WitnessLA’s staff sources.  The kids, who were teenagers, were hospitalized and both survived.  

Then during that same general time period,  one kid stabbed another kid.  Again the injured boy survived, but it was only blind luck that the victim wasn’t hurt worse, say those familiar with the circumstances of the attack. 

Later still this month, also at Barry J, a youth stabbed a staff member.  Again, the stabbing reportedly could have been far worse had the Detention Service Officer (DSO) not been wearing more layers of clothes than usual in the cold weather.

 The overdoses and the stabbing added to an already unstable situation in several of the units that were part of what is known as the Secure Youth Track Facility—or SYTF—which refers to the units which house the youth who  in previous years would have been sent California’s Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ),  the state’s youth prison system.    

Matters have not been helped by the fact that youth probation is operating with only 11 percent of its workforce.  

Thus when, added to everything else, a batch of Los Angeles based kids were moved from the state’s youth prisons, to Barry J, earlier this month, the influx of the DJJ youth triggered a spate of violence.

Editor’s update

WLA, originally heard that the outbreak of violence resulted in a lockdown, in which kids could not leave their rooms to use the toilet for 24-hours. Yet, we have since learned from an informed source that this was not the case.

Then on Monday of this week, the LA County Board of Supervisors asked Chief Gonzales to resign his position.

According to well-placed probation sources, Gonzales declined to do so.  They would have to fire him, he said.

Do what you gotta do, the chief told the board members, or words to that effect.

In the meantime, both youth halls are not safe places for anyone.

We’ll have more on all of the above later this week So watch this space.


  • Thank you Celeste for following up on these incidents. Strip search laws in Probation were changed years ago, after jails were successfully sued in other parts of the state. The response to this litigation resulted in policies that make it difficult to strip search minors. After this change, all H broke loose in Probation institutions. Youth enter custody with drugs (and who knows what else), “keistered” just like the adults.

    At some point, the Board better realize that the light weight offenders are staying in the community. Probation houses largely older, gang affiliated, criminally wise offenders. The minors (and some are legal adults btw) have learned from all the “reforms”. They exploited policy weaknesses and are now in charge.

    The Board is the entity not learning – there have been repeated drug issues and assaults. These situations are not new. Yet the Board champions “reforms” that removes pepper spray and treats these detainees as lightweights that toilet papered a house. You have to wonder how bad it will have to get for them to understand…

  • Well, this is what happens when you let the inmates run the asylum. I am sorry Celeste, but I am a former juvenile hall ward, cya ward, then I became a probation officer for 12 years before standing up for myself got me ousted.

    I run into former wards I worked with all the time, and they all give me a hug and tell me how much I made a difference and that’s all that matters to me

    I personally believe that there needs to be a happy medium… between the regimentation of the late 90s to the cluster f*** we have now. I agree that there is alot to improve on, but by letting all these advocates who have no idea what they are doing take control… do you really think this is a good idea? I always said lets you and me sit down and I will blow your mind with who’s really the ones screwing up the dept, but you never want to hear the truth. Just what you can slander with

    Gonzalez is a great fit for the dept… same with Fletcher!!! I never met them, but from what I know… they are great! McDonnald was a poison and the current BOS is the poison.

  • And another thing…. the staff being hired now…. most quit so fast because of the lack of consequences…. the ones being hired now are the reasons we have contraband coming in…. most can’t handle these kids…. especially when you take away the tools we had….

    All they do now is reward negative behavior. That breeds worse behavior.

    Are you that blind Celeste?

    I can’t wait to see how the new dept you all reimagined does…. its gonna be way worse

  • Since all CYA is closed and closing! It’s every counties in California responsibility now. More stabbing to come. Good luck

  • All counties will see group disturbances, staff assaults, and stabbing. This why CYA was created, and why it was important to public safety.

  • You mean “if the Board of Supervisors Continue to Fail”
    So easy for then to point fingers and use scape goats for their Failure. Truth is, we need a new members on the BOS. Your source needs to get some facts straight before blowing the whistle. BJN is getting DJJ young men with the same issues they had at DJJ, BUT not the same tools officers had. The Chief needs approval of the BOS, if its not done/approved! Whose really Failing!?

  • What is a spate of violence? One can have a spate of anger which is resolved without incident. However, violence, as used in this spate of journalism, involves physical danger. To trivialize acts of violence against peace officer’s lead one to question the writers overall objectivity. Support Peace Officer’s.

  • I reviewed the complaints of the BSCC. Many of the problems are due to the L.A Couty Board Of Supervisors’ refusing to lift the hiring freeze. Incredible. The BOS caused the problem, and then turn around and blame the Department. Plus, the media goes along with it.
    Interestingly enough, one of the complaints points out that THE YOUTH ARE NOT BEING DISCIPLINED FOR BAD BEHAVIOR. The BSCC must have lost the memo from child advocates and the left stating that DISCIPLINE has been canceled in the facilities.

  • It should not go without noting that the Governor and his “no child should be locked up” cronies made the decision to close DJJ with absolutely no backup plans, no provision for agency “space,” no funds for hiring and training professionals in how to work with/treat adolescents, and absolutely no clue about what to do with future juvenile offenders. Its like they thought that closing DJJ would somehow eliminate all future juvenile offending. The Grand Plan is to send those kids already in the system back to the very environments that created them in the first place with the belief that everyone is just going to gather together in unity and sing kumbaya into the sunset. Oh wait, I forgot. There are no funds!! There’s only that high speed rail the Governor’s promised and as long as we get that, who cares about the kids and our communities. Priorities folks! High speed rail or successful management of juvenile offenders. Apparently you can’t have both.

  • Officers in these facilities have been stripped of every possible tool. The youth have been ordered detained by a judge because they have been deemed a danger to the community and/or their own welfare. There are youth detained for murder, carjacking, assault with a deadly weapon, rape, etc. there is absolutely no consequence for negative conduct so the youth who are very street wise, take advantage of it. Most importantly, the BOS handpicks every probation chief, every one of them. A probation chief basically either follows their orders or gets replaced. Ask the BOS how many chiefs they’ve handpicked and fired. The BOS point fingers when the are driving the car into the ditch. The BOS run the probation department not the chief, unfortunately. When are you and others going to hold them accountable?

  • Without getting into the politics This is only a suggestion to assist with Chief Gonzales and Deputy Chief Fletcher. Back in the 80s and 90s there were on average 50 to 55 minors on each side of the unit without any pepper spray.
    ( 1000 minors at each three facilities). The pepper spray was approved in 95.
    The buildings that had the CYA, Youth Authority, DJJ always had five staff assigned to these units. If there were issues, another staff would be assigned to help deescalate any issue. Not just any staff, Sr. DSO, supervisor . These individuals were selected by the Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Division Director. This was a team effort that worked for many years. The managers need to know the strengths of every staff assigned to the facility. The one Officer of the Day that I can remember was Mr D. He was a great OD that knew how to shift the staff around in the facility to ensure all the strength and experience is not all in one building and is balanced. This would eliminate most problems. The best
    Superintendent was Mr B at the time. He knew all the staffs strengths. He had the supervisors pick the staff they wanted as part of their team. Once the supervisors selected who they wanted, the superintendent switched every supervisor around and he placed the supervisors where he need them the most (compound). The Department needs to go back to basics and provide the tools that worked and support to the staff. The Board of Supervisors need to provide the tools and support to the Department. Add Five permanent staff with experience, skills and abilities to each unit that are always assigned to the compound (Directive) and never moved to fill other spots to cover in the facility. Provide cameras (Like the police use) for incidents that are controlled and uncontrolled. This would help bring down staff that are placed under investigation and build moral. Also, this will bring the staff on level ground and have the minor held accountable ( video evidence). In the Compound, open up the back rooms of the control center (make it safe to house the out of control and violent minors with two assigned staff). Bring back the coordinator to file new charges for those minors that are violent, aggressive and out of control. If the ward is over 18, they can request transfer to the Sheriff’s Department, pending new charges and if convicted of the charges, possibly transfer to the Department of Corrections. This will set the tone.

    This is only a suggestion. My heart goes out to the staff for their dedication and hard work. Everyone needs to know the history of the Department.

  • When people that have no clue what they are doing send youth from CYA to juvenile hall, without training, this is what will happen. The staff that work there did not receive any additional training about how to deal with them, . The staff at Juvenile hall don’t have stab vests, chemical agent and are not properly trained. The youth that were sent there from CYA are highly sophisticated and will overtake the Juvenile halls if training and infrastructure does not take place now. CYA was created for a purpose and house the most violent youth in the state.

  • Goodbye to the California Youth Authority! All the counties in California will see more incidents, riots, assaults, and overdoses. All these youth advocates group are to blame.

  • People in California and all these Youth advocates group need to understand that CYA was built for all violent wards! The Youth Authority being long gone. The California Division of Juvenile Justice is more Treatment trauma, and set to closed June 30,2023.

  • Only an opinion.
    Everything is about greed & money. And it’s the detained minors who are the ponds on the chest board.

    So, the BOS reform policies aren’t working as planned and they needed a fall guy because CJH and BJNJH wasn’t in compliance. It’s real hard to get any corrective measures done when staffing ratio are below par and there’s the constant threat of violence and assaults by minors who care less about rules and regulations. (Thanks Gascon).

    Didn’t the BOS take $70 million/or so in Phase 1, from the probation department budget back in 2019 because of the Defund the Police movement to help with WHAT?
    Where did that money go… admin expenses?
    So we recently experience Two stabbings , two kids overdosing and shortage of staff doesn’t help the Chief much. And, that doesn’t include all the other assaults on staff that we don’t hear about or the awols attempts that don’t make the press.

    But, former Chief, Big Red escaped the media when $50 million or so, went unaccounted for and she didn’t face termination by the BOS when a female staff on her watch, got pregnant by a detained minor. It was hush hush. Then all of a sudden she resigns and the county rushed to close down LPJH. Makes you wonder if the 5-Queens of LA was protecting there own. If it were a male staff…his name, birthdate and picture would have made all the media outlets and Ms Celeste Freeman would have printed a story in WitnessLA demanding swift jail sentencing.
    Look, I get it. Reform is good.. but damn, be proactive with administering safety and security for both minors and staff. It looks like the BOS didn’t get the Local 685 memo.

    I think this reform chaos was orchestrated to cut cost and save tax dollars because of an overall California problem of not having enough money to provide county’s basic services. And when you add that, businesses and people are leaving California, cost of living is high, and we have a big homeless problem , you just have to wonder if this orchestrated chaos was manufactured legally to shut down a department and reduce its bottom line to save money on medical & dental benefits, retirement benefits, Horizons’s.. y’all know where this is going. These are things corporations do to cut cost. And, in the process, they destroy good hard working families and put more strain on our social services system.

    I see this as a strategic plan to steer billions of dollars into nonprofit groups. Justify the move by saying that it will saves tax payer’s dollars and the kids will get better programs.

    I can only guess that investors, non profits, juvenile advocates and pharmaceutical corporations saw an opportunity to industrialize juvenile justice reform. I wouldn’t be surprised if members of the BOS and their buddies are getting back door kickbacks as investors or as they sit on some of the nonprofit boards. Big Pharma get multimillion dollar contracts by supplying psychotropic meds for minors.

    Chief Gonzales you played right into the Reform agenda of the BOS. Instead of being your own man and doing what right to promote safety and security for minors and staff, you cow towed to the whims of the 5-Queens of LA.

  • Hey! Check this out!! But everyone wants to blame the staff!! Kinda hard to control a population of kids that are already defiant….but now under the influence!!!! Wow! What a joke! Those poor kids!!! YouTube link! https://youtu.be/xYsL-VlMvWk

    Cell phones, drugs, and lean.

  • I am a retired DJJ Teacher with over 25 years experience. First of all I am appalled that the DJJ is closing, it is absolutely necessity that we have a department to deal with what I call the “wildcats.” For years the counties have very successful in helping the “feral kittens” in rehabilitation. The YA/DJJ has been dealing with all the challenging wildcats that has been thrown at them. Do you really believe there is a program out there that could rehabilitate any and all youth? In theory a lot of ideas make sense, and we cannot discount the idea of youth living close to home was a good reason to do away with the DJJ, not to mention our checkered history. A quarter of a century is a enough time to see what the real problems are, and to be truthful most of the problems with the wildcats are surgical in nature, leaving many of us who have given much; only able to offer up a Band-Aid. These youth come with monumental problems, but they also come with incredible amounts a funds to the right program. Everyone who bids to be apart of the solution is also fixated on grabbing the massive funds that are tied to this. The youth that have “changed” the most are the ones that were cared for for staff who put everything into these students, do programs change youth? I know that youth seem to change around the Staff who enjoy their job, the youth and understand their calling. It takes special types of persons to pour out the hours of time needed to build up broken youth.

Leave a Comment