A string of kids overdose & a staff member attacked in one of LA County’s troubled youth halls

Barry J Nidorf Juvenile Hall via Google Earth
Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

According WitnessLA’s sources, and a document we have obtained, in the last five days there have been eleven drug overdoses at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall, all of which required intervention, and in some cases, an emergency trip to the hospital.

In addition, in the last few days, also at Barry J, as the Sylmar facility is known, a new and inexperienced staff member, who had reportedly been on the job for around six weeks, was left alone in Unit N/O of the facility with no help or supervision or back-up.

When the staff member was physically attacked by two youth in the unit, sources say he called for help on a walkie talkie. At first no-one took the call seriously. By the time help arrived, he was reportedly badly injured.

The unsuitability factor

As readers may remember, around a month ago, on Tuesday afternoon,  May 23, the members of  The California Board of State and Community Corrections of BSCC voted unanimously to legally declare LA County Probation’s two main youth lock-ups “unsuitable” for habitation by kids or young adults.

The two facilities, Barry J Nidorf Juvenile Hall and Central Juvenile Hall, had been dodging the specter of this vote for at least two years.

In the last six months, however, Barry J and Central Juvenile Hall, have been particularly unsafe places for youth and staff members, a fact that was demonstrated earlier this year at Barry J, when two staff members, and a kid, were stabbed in three separate incidents, each of which easily could have been fatal.

During that same period there were at least five drug overdoses among the youth at Barry J, each causing NARCAN to be administered. In some of the cases, hospitalization was also required. As with the stabbings, fortunately no one died.

That luck ran out in on May 9 of this year when a well-liked 18-year-old boy named Bryan Diaz died of a fentanyl overdose at Barry J.

Silence may not be golden

In the month since the BSCC board vote in late May, there has been no news of any catastrophes in the two youth halls, although sources continue to describe the ongoing problem of inadequate staffing, which according to staff members and youth advocates, produces dangerous and abusive conditions for over-stressed staff members, and for kids who go for long stretches without being able to go outside for recreation, or have family visits due to the staff shortages.

In the meantime, LA County Probation—led by the agency’s interim chief,  Guillermo Viera Rosa, the third chief in an many months— has presumably been dealing with the unenviable task of getting ready to move approximately 300 youth from the two “unsuitable” halls, to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall located in Downey, a facility that has been shuttered since 2019, save for a few instances of short term usage of a small portion of the structure. 

The county has a total of 60 days to make the move. The 60-day clock began on May 23, 2023, the day of the BSCC vote.

Meanwhile, we have that attack on a new staff member, and a string of overdoses, any one of which could have been deadly.

More soon. So watch this space.


  • Does it matter if the boy was “well-liked” or not? A loss of life is a loss of life. If the boy wasn’t “like” I’m sure WitnessLa would spin it in a way that staff let it happened because he “wasn’t liked”. Bad writing.

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