On Tuesday, May 23, the California Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) is expected to vote to declare Los Angeles County Probation’s two main youth lock-ups, Barry J Nidorf Juvenile Hall and Central Juvenile Hall, to be “unsuitable for youth habitation.”
This is an action that reportedly should have taken place, legally speaking, at the last BSCC meeting on April 10 of this year, due to the county’s failure to come up with an adequate corrective action plan, or CAP, after the BSCC found the two youth halls to be extravagantly out of compliance when it comes to basic standards of care for the kids in residence at the two facilities.
For those unfamiliar, the BSCC provides oversight for California’s various county jails and youth detention facilities, in order to make sure these facilities hit the state’s minimum legal requirements for habitation.
LA County’s most recent problems in that matter began in February of this year, when the BSCC announced that Central Juvenile Hall, located north/east of downtown LA, was out of compliance in 20 of the BSCC’s categories, while Barry J Nidorf Juvenile Hall, located in Sylmar, was out of compliance in 19 categories, for a total of 39 areas in which the two facilities were not hitting the most fundamental marks when it comes to keeping the kids in LA County’s care safe.
As WitnessLA has reported, many of the areas of non-compliance have been, in great part, caused by the fact that, when the assessment was made, only 21 percent of the needed staff was showing up at the two halls, in particularly at Barry J Nidorf (BJN).
On March 14, LA County Probation delivered to the BSCC a “corrective action plan,”or CAP, explaining the steps the county intended to take in order to address the issues of noncompliance listed in the oversight board’s February report. In the CAP, the county also had to commit to a time frame by which probation would come into compliance, which was not to exceed 90 days
When the BSCC’s team in charge of these facility inspections and assessments reviewed LA County Probation’s March CAP, they found it to be “insufficient,” to adequately correct the two facilities’ alarming line-up of problems.
According to Allison Ganter, the BSCC’s Deputy Director of Facilities Standards and Operations, in many of the units youth were regularly confined to their rooms at night where they have to urinate with no access to a toilet.
And this was just one of a number of disturbing observations by Ganter and company.
Nevertheless, LA County officials persuaded the BSCC board to wait until their May meeting to issue the unsuitable designation.
That May meeting is tomorrow.
Where’s the CAP?
Meanwhile, since the April 10 meeting, Ganter and her team have continued their inspections. The result of these April inspections are laid out in a nine-page report that will be presented to the BSCC members at Tuesday’s public meeting.
Here’s a preview of what they found.
According to the May 23, report, during the last days of April, BSCC inspectors were frequently on-site at Barry J. and Central Juvenile Halls to “determine whether the county was meeting its commitment to resolve noncompliance.”
During that same period, BSCC inspectors also made unannounced visits during the late night shifts in both of the youth halls to see how things were going.
In addition, the BSCC staff made a point of meeting with directors at each of the two facilities.
What they found during these meetings and visits—announced and otherwise—produced a series of red flags.
For example, it was “immediately apparent,” wrote the BSCC inspectors, that many of the activities provided and conditions of the facilities outlined in the corrective plans did not match what the county had described.
Perplexingly, the inspectors also discovered that neither the Senior Director at Central Juvenile Hall nor the directors at Barry J Nidorf Juvenile Hall had actually seen a copy of the County’s March 14, CAP at all. Nor had they seen the its follow-up, the Supplemental Action Plan (SCAP).
(The inspectors obligingly gave the various directors copies of the needed documents.)
Furthermore, the problem of a critical shortage of staff in the facilities continued, said the inspectors, affecting both the well-being of the staff members who were on duty, along with that of the youth in residence in both halls, particularly those in Barry J.
For instance, at the Sylmar facility, between April 10 and April 28, examiners found that at least 34 staff members had, at one time or another during that period, worked for 24 hours straight.
“Understandably,” wrote the inspectors, “the staff who continue to show up for shifts are exhausted and exasperated.”
All this brings us to Tuesday’s meeting, and the looming vote.
New faces and a new proposed timeline
In preparation for the BSCC meeting, probation’s new interim chief, Guillermo Viera Rosa, has brought in what he describes as “a special team of experts” to present the department’s plan to state regulators “for closing down Central and Barry J. Nidorf Halls as conventional juvenile facilities and consolidating operations at a renovated Los Padrinos campus.”
In this unusual arrangement, the new team—which includes Margarita E. Perez, Nancy M. Campbell, and Michael L. Minor—will reportedly be speaking on behalf of Viera Rosa, who was, until this past April, a member of the BSCC, so is prevented from actively participating by this obvious conflict of interest.
“I couldn’t think of a more distinguished group to represent the County at this critical point in our relationship with the BSCC,” said Viera Rosa in an emailed statement.
The threesome’s main goal will be to convince the BSCC’s voting members that, rather than the traditional 60 days usually allowed to empty out youth facilities after they are declared unsuitable by the oversight board, LA County needs a longer period in order to put into place a reform plan approved by the County Board of Supervisors on May 2, (which WLA wrote about here).
The trio, said Viera Rosa, hopes to enlist the BSCC’s help “as “partners,” in order to come up with a more realistic timeline for shifting operations—and youth— from Central and Barry J, to the county’s previously shuttered facility, Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, in order to “minimize disruption to the youth and their families.”
So there you have it. At least for now.
We’ll have lots more after the BSCC meeting (including more on the triumvirate of experts), so….watch this space.