Friday night, any & all available youth probation staff members were called to report to LA County’s Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall because of a “large disturbance”

Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall's updated entrance, photo courtesy of Los Angeles County Probation
Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

On Friday, July 28, LA County Probation officials put out a call for “all sworn staff” who were not on “work restrictions” to report to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey where there was a “large disturbance” in the facility, with young people also attempting to escape the youth hall.

According to some of our sources, one youth succeeded in escaping and made it as far as a golf course that borders the facility, before staff got him back.

Yet, there were multiple injuries, prominently including at least two staff members, who reportedly were harmed.

The Downey Police Department and others, including an LA Sheriff’s Department helicopter, were called in last night, along with the request for both line staff and supervisors to report to the youth facility, while squad cars surrounded the building,

Friday, July 29, 2023

Gun and ammo

Last Friday, July 21, there was a different worry at Los Padrinos (LP) causing an armed unit and other LA County Probation officials to spend much of that Friday searching the facility after a gun belonging to a staff member was found in an unsecured office, with two extra ammo clips stored with the weapon.

Homemade weapons were reportedly found among the youth last night, some of them simply broken pieces of furniture.

A few days before the gun and extra clips were discovered in Los Padrinos, at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall, located in Sylmar, a female staff member (whose name we are withholding) was reportedly escorted from the building after allegedly being found to be providing narcotics for some of the facility’s youth.

Given that there are supposed to be rigorous checks of staff and visitors to make sure that contraband of any kind stays out of the halls, no one was cheered to find that the checks appear to be as reliable for controlling prohibited and dangerous items as a broken sieve.

Last Friday’s problems occurred a few days after the county had finished moving nearly 300 kids out of Barry J and Central Juvenile Halls to Los Padrinos. This move was necessitated to meet the deadline set more than two months ago, when the members of  the state’s oversight board—The California Board of State and Community Corrections, or BSCC— voted unanimously to legally declare the county’s two main youth lock-ups to be “unsuitable” for habitation by kids or young adults.

As WitnessLA has reported previously in detail, Los Angeles County had been dodging the specter of this vote for at least two years.

The SYTF factor

Even with the overdue vote on the part of the BSCC, in a maddening case of legal illogic, so far the “unsuitable,” designation does not apply to approximately 60 of young people in Barry J Juvenile Hall.

These are the youth and young adults who are housed in the units designated as the Secure Youth Track Facility or SYTF.

In past years, these youth would have been sent to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), which operated the state’s violence-plagued youth facilities which have been permanently shuttered as of June 30, of this year. 

Prior to this month’s move of all the non SYTF youth to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, Barry J and Central Juvenile Halls 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 early this year, 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 good fortune ran out on May 9 of this year when a well-liked 18-year-old young adult named Bryan Diaz died of a fentanyl overdose at Barry J.

The teenager’s death came at a time when the two facilities had been found repeatedly to be out of compliance with the many of the most basic standards of care.

As WitnessLA has reported, many of the areas of non-compliance had been, in great part, caused by the fact that, when the above assessment was made, only 21 percent of the needed staff was showing up at the two halls, in particular at Barry J.

Although those numbers have improved, we still hear reports that overworked staff members are often asked to do 24 hour shifts.

When the unsuitability vote took place at the BSCC, the county had a 60-day deadline to relocate most of the kids in residence at the two halls.  For its relocation site, the county chose its previously shuttered third youth lock-up, Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall located in Downey.

While the county worked to clean up LP, and then to transfer the youth within the BSCC’s time parameters, while preparations were being made for the move, the unsafe nature of the existing youth halls continued to demonstrate itself.

(Exactly why the BSCC and LA County officials believe that this game of musical facilities will solve any of the long list of problems that led to the unsuitability designation in the first place, is not at all clear.)

As WitnessLA reported last month, in a five day period in late June, once again there was a string of overdoses at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall. This time the OD total was eleven, all of which required intervention, and in some cases, emergency trips to the hospital.

Brian Diaz, the kid who died of an overdose was residing in one of the SYTF units that are still up and running in “unsuitable” Barry J with approximately 60 kids in residence.

A somewhat unsettling report from the Office of the Inspector General

Early this week, LA County’s Inspector General Max Huntsman sent a report to the members of the Board of Supervisors, and Interim Probation Chief Guillermo Viera Rosa, in which Huntsman described some troubling issues that members of his office had noted during probation’s recent multi-day transfer of the youth to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall.

Huntsman told members of the board that, given the Office of the Inspector General has the critical function of oversight of the probation department, he was dismayed to find that his team was not notified of the first phase of the transfer of the kids from Barry J Nidorf and Central to LP, so did not observe that part of the process.

During the transfers that the IG and company were able to observe, Huntsman noticed that, while the young people were searched for contraband before entering LP, the staff were not.

(After the gun and ammo was found, a facility-wide search did belatedly take place, with no further contraband found among staff members.)

Otherwise, Huntsman reported, the transfer seemed to go well and smoothly, with experienced staff members facilitating.

Yet, now we have the “massive disturbance.”

On Saturday night probation officials lifted the lockdown at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, with some restrictions.

All 273 youths who are in residence at LP are safe and accounted for.

More as we know it.


  • They have staff shortages because they refuse to hire ppl in a timely fashion. They think that making ppl jump through all kinds of hoops is going to make ppl value the job more. That’s untrue. People quit after 1 shift, so all that extra stuff is for nothing. The department can hire ppl, run a back ground check, and leave all that other crap out. Taking 2 years to get through the hiring process is crazy.

  • Thanks to this site and many others, nobody wants to work in probation where the staff is routinely attacked, stabbed and beaten. The extensive background is not the problem with hiring. No one is applying to work at these facilities while most of the workers are just biding their time, going out on injuries and waiting to retire.

    A round of applause to all those who worked so tirelessly to remove OC spray from the juvenile halls. Not only can’t the staff defend themselves but they clearly don’t have the tools to stop a riot. Why on earth is a detention facility calling the police to handle their internal problems. Jails and prisons don’t call the police to handle their riots. What a mess!

  • Until the Board of Supervisors understand the juveniles are violent offenders who are terrorizing their communities, parents and have no regard for the law or authorities, this will remain a problem. There are no consequences for their actions. This is why crime is on the rise. This is why everyday we see on the news mobs running into high end stores stealing merchandise. These groups know they will not be held accountable for their criminal behavior.

  • @Sadie White clearly you are not recognize the decades of mismanagement of Probation. Blame the BOS as much as you want, but let’s not forget
    the 90s “super predator” juvenile where incarceration, lengthy sentences was the norm. How did that work out?

  • To: Concern LACO Resident.
    There’s always more sides to a story.
    There’s a lot more that’s goes on that the public doesn’t want to know ( allegedly)!!!

    I believe the courts set the length of sentencing, not the the probation department.

    Incarceration just like homelessness is being industrialized. There’s money to be had by all if we keep our stories right.
    I’d say the courts, LACOUNTY, Probation, special interest groups, the attorneys, the Mental Health Counselors, outside vendors and community partners all have a shared interest in any mismanagement because they are all getting paid in some way, shape, or form through various agreements and contracts to provide special services to incarcerated youth. Such as: food programs, mental health, pharmaceuticals, counseling, tutoring, education to keep up with school credits, medical and dental services, room and board , recreation, library services, clothes, shoes, toiletries , and hygiene station and supplies , transportation to medical appointments and transportation to courthouses, and more. These vendors don’t work for free.

    Here’s something else to contemplate:
    Estimate 6,000 members in a Dept.
    Estimate $145 members dues per person per mo.
    Estimate all 6,000 employees for (12) yrs.
    Estimate and Do the math.
    That’s a lot of money collected , that’s not being reported on how it’s used to it’s member.
    Ask why you haven’t received an annual finance statement to itemize debit and credits.
    Where or who’s in possession of that money.

    Our tax money:
    It cost approximately $290,000.00 to care for juvenile detainee per year. It cost approximately $1.1 million to care for an adult in county jail. Plug in your own occupancy numbers and do the math.

    The public don’t want their tax dollars spent for incarceration so we now have No bail and early releases.

    BLM and Defund the Police movement proved to be the public’s outcry against unfair treatment by police. These movements were also the collateral damage that saw people involved in increase of personal property crimes, home burglaries, vandalism, assault, commercial burglaries, car thefts, catalytic converter thefts, and more only to see the perps released back into their communities with no consequences.

    Our societal thirst to “fight the Power “, “Stand Your Ground”, and to verbally express our 1st Amendment Rights and freedom of speech has finally crossed the line that threatens common sense law, safety and security. Young criminals are not afraid to be arrested and go to juvenile hall because California is soft on crime and they know that they will be released soon so they can commit crimes again. However, Some kids will be reformed to lead productive lives.

    Kids detained in juvenile hall feel entitled, it’s like Disneyland in the halls, a right of passage. Refusing to follow from an arresting officer leads to higher levels of police involvement. Failure to follow correction officers instructions in the juvenile hall setting disrupts the probation goal of mentorship that prevents the growth and positive reinforcement for other detainees who want to improve and do better.
    Combative and destructive youth participate in riots, destroying the units they live in, smash windows, break furniture, clog up toilets, pop locks, demand the use of cellphones to order from Uber eats, assault teachers & staff, manipulate officers, attack other minors without cause, knowing most officers will not get involved for fear of losing their jobs or going to jail for allegations of improper restraint techniques. (pepper spray was banned by the BOS in 2020). And, then they call their parents or attorneys and say the staff placed them in inhabitable living quarters; all a ruse to gain traction for a lawsuit and potentially a “get out of Juvi Free card”.

    The current work environment:
    These unsafe work conditions seems to be sanctioned by the collective efforts of the BOS but the side effects created staff injuries, callouts, and forced holdovers of an already depleted short staff.
    New recruits resign after a short stint and seek employment elsewhere to protect themselves from daily threat of assault on staff, career ending injury, arrest from BOS witch hunts.
    Or worse, such as the death of the DSO at BJNJH and the DSO at LPJH (before it closed in 2019). Both deaths can be attributed to incompetent management at the time, who had no business in those managerial positions with little to no experience working with youth in a high disturbance situation.

    You talk about mismanagement of funds – what about putting incompetent people in Upper Level positions because of nepotism and/ or favoritism.

    So, Mr. Concern LA County Resident – when you talk about mismanagement of funds. I believe there’s a whole lot of people getting paid under the table where funds can’t be traced and above the table where some folks are reaping the benefits of paid contracts but not providing the full plate of services they promised.

    It’s just easier to point the finger at Probation right now because they are the ones in the public hot seat.

    Next step:
    A story for NETFLIX – the staff’s stories.

  • You get what you vote for. Liberal policies ruined this department! “Take the doors off the SHU and place stuffed animals and mental health crap”. . There are no consequences for their behavior. Look at your store is getting ransacked by juveniles who know that they can’t get in trouble when they get caught and if they do they get to go to Disneyland, a.k.a. juvenile hall. Bring back the thugs that they used to hire to work with these delinquents. They never had this type of nonsense in the 80s and 90s. Anyways, I said my peace. Keep voting democrat you get what you vote for liberals don’t believe in locking kids up and giving staff pepper spray.

  • Well, well, well. I’m surprised that Witness LA, again, was not the first to report on the latest riot, assault on staff, escape and recapture of a juvenile from Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, Saturday evening, November 4, 2023.

    When I first started working in the halls we had a daily routine and strict military style structure. Staff relied on Structure, constant supervision and and dedicated backup staff to run an 8-hour shift in a unit.

    Using physical restraint was part of our CORE training and the use of pepper spray was always the last resort. Juveniles would be warned that use of pepper spray would be deployed in the event of a multi major disturbance, such as a riot, gang fight, or any violent incident that threatens the overall safety and security of a unit. Staff were not afraid to do there jobs to keep minors, staff, teachers and visitors safe.

    What is happening today is totally unacceptable when the teenage inmates run the facilities and assault staff on a regular basis. Hell, it’s no wonder why people call out. But the news media outlets will never publish why it’s happening or why so many new recruits are leaving soon after they start.

    Remember the phrase:
    “Don’t do the crime if you don’t want to do the time.”
    What ever happened to this slogan. Now,
    it’s do the crime , take a weeks vacation in lockup, and you’ll be home by the following weekend. Or, you’ll be added to the statistics of those; “ Catch and Releases”.

    Our progressive policy is really starting to backfire. Common sense policy to promote safety and security has given way to County commissions and PhD’’s who believe having kids walk in a straight line, no talking and hands behind their backs is a form of Child Abuse. Hell, those instructions were done to keep kids safe while on line movement outside of the units. At the end of the day, the kids respected it and thanks us for running a smooth unit (board) that kept them safe. Even on Saturday and Sunday visits from parents would echo that same sentiment.

    We were taught skills necessary for group control within the adolescent to teenage age group. It worked. I don’t know what they teaching today.
    I guess some child advocate interpret a straight line movement of 15 males and no talking was considered abusive. When you have 3-4 different gangs represented in a unit and you have to make a line movement to the medical office or to church, you don’t want any communication between any of them , because safety and security is a priority. Having two or three people distract you can cause what happened last Saturday night on November 4th. A riot and an escape.

    Bring back the military style of structure and daily hourly schedule routine.
    Bring back the “refiling of additional charges when kids violate while in custody.
    Bring back the SHU, Special Handling Unit.

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