by Hans Liang, President, LA County Deputy Probation Officers’ Union, AFSCME Local 685
Witness LA’s Celeste Fremon has declared that the LA County juvenile halls are neither safe for youth nor for the staff or rehabilitative service providers working there. Ms. Fremon has, at long last, spoken truth to power and it is past time for change – which is precisely what LA County’s dedicated probation officers have been saying for decades.
But it’s about more than safety.
LA County’s juvenile probation facilities, which exist solely to respond to the court-ordered placement of justice-involved youth into these facilities, are not delivering on what these youth and their families demand: a physical environment that is designed for restorative justice and rehabilitation.
Simply put, justice-involved youth need programming in a secure, home-like environment that meets their mental, emotional, and psychological needs.
LA County Probation facilities are aged and jail-like. They are not safe and secure spaces for programming, counseling, dental and eye care, or trauma-informed psychological treatment for challenged youth. And the county does not provide adequate training for probation officers, most of whom have undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work and treatment for challenged youth.
That’s why the LA County Deputy Probation Officers Union is sponsoring Assembly Bill 695, introduced on February 13, by Assemblymember Blanca Pacheco.
AB 695 addresses the need for modern, secure, and youth-centered facilities that enhance the rehabilitative function of the LA County Probation Department. LA County must meet the basic needs of detained youth and, more critically, must meet the expanded requirement of providing a “home-like” environment that enhances rehabilitation.
Specifically, we are calling for a wholesale renovation of Central Juvenile Hall, Camp Joseph Paige, Dorothy Kirby Center, and Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall to assure that youth are housed in an environment that is conducive to rehabilitation, including safe restrooms and learning spaces. Further, we are calling for a new training facility for officers to assure that we are up to the task.
LA County probation officers are dedicated to rehabilitating justice-involved youth. We are ready to answer the call for change.
AB 695 is a giant step in the right direction, and we encourage all stakeholders to commit to investing in LA’s justice-involved youth by supporting this important legislation.