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.
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.