California Department of Justice:
County Has Failed to Fix What’s Wrong at Juvenile Halls
Motion Seeks Order Enforcing 2021 Stipulated Judgment, Calls for Sanctions If County Does Not Bring Itself Into Compliance Within 120 Days; State Board Set to Decide Today If Facilities Should Be Shuttered
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Department of Justice yesterday accused the County of Los Angeles of failing to abide by the terms of a 2021 stipulated judgment requiring it to remedy unsafe conditions of confinement at its two juvenile halls, setting a hearing on a motion to enforce the judgment, and asking that sanctions be imposed if the county does not come into compliance within 120 days.
That motion is slated to be heard on May 9 by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis. Under the judgment, the court has retained jurisdiction.
Yesterday’s action, announced by Attorney General Rob Bonta, could have an effect on what happens at today’s meeting of the Board of State and Community Corrections (“BSCC”) which is slated to determine whether the two juvenile halls—the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall (“BJN”) and “Central Juvenile Hall” (“CJH”)—are to be declared “unsuitable.” If so, under the proposal, the county would be required within 60 days to shift minors who are housed in BJN and CJH to other facilities.
Interim Chief Probation Officer Karen Fletcher has asked for a delay while the county formulates a new plan to address the 39 areas of noncompliance previously pinpointed by the BSCC, and the filing of the motion to enforce the existing judgment could weigh in favor of a delay being granted.
County Allegedly ‘Regressing’
A memorandum of points and authorities in support of the motion, signed by Deputy Attorney General Christopher Medeiros, declares:
“The Attorney General has gone to great lengths to bring about voluntary compliance, employing multi-day site visits with follow-up and consultation, meet-and-confers, multiple requests to address violations found from documents reviewed, and detailed reports and correspondence identifying areas of continued noncompliance along with repeated requests to comply. The County has not only failed to comply but is now regressing in areas where some progress had been achieved. Conditions in the juvenile halls are alarming, the violations are severe and ongoing, and youth and staff are at serious risk of harm. The Attorney General now seeks court intervention to enforce the Judgment.”
The memorandum adds:
“In February, the Monitor wrote directly to the Board of Supervisors to inform it of ‘deteriorating’ conditions in the Juvenile Halls and of Probation’s ‘fail[ure] to meet even the most basic and fundamental responsibilities.’ …And while the Board of Supervisors has not responded to the Monitor’s correspondence, it has demonstrated awareness of the gravity of the situation at the Juvenile Halls through a recently passed motion decrying Probation’s failure to ‘meet basic standards of care’ there.”
The memorandum was publicly released yesterday in a heavily redacted form, blotting out descriptions of most of the alleged violations. As filed, the complaint lists seven “critical provisions of the Judgment” which an independent monitor and the county’s Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) have found have not been satisfied but only two are publicly revealed: an alleged failure to “timely and accurately document and review all use-of-force incidents” and to “install video cameras at BJN.”
A footnote in Medeiros’s memorandum says:
“These are not the only provisions of the Judgment with which the County is not in compliance. The Attorney General is at present focusing on these provisions because they are fundamental to restoring safety and ensuring basic provision of education and services to youth in the Juvenile Halls.”
The document states that “[i]n the two-plus years since the Judgment took effect, the Monitor has consistently sounded the alarm over” with the source of that alarm blotted out.
It says that “The Monitor’s most recent report also criticizes [redacted]” and adds:
“More troubling still, the Monitor’s most recent report concludes [redacted].”
Allegations Made Public
The publicly filed version does reveal, quoting an unidentified source:
“[D]uring an unannounced inspection of BJN on March 8, 2023, BSCC staff found that there had been no progress towards provision of required daily outdoor exercise and programming for youth, and that youth were eliminating urine in receptacles in their rooms during the night shift due in part to continued lack of staffing.”
“Testimony from Probation staff before the Probation Oversight Committee and a recent OIG report have also revealed that staffing shortages and lax security procedures have permitted an influx of narcotics, including fentanyl, into the juvenile halls—with two youth at BJN requiring the use of Narcan following three separate overdose incidents thus far in 2023.”
Transportation to Classes
The allegation is made that the county is in violation of the judgment by “failing to timely transport students to class on a daily basis, due at least in part to its failure to provide and maintain sufficient staffing,” resulting in lost hours of schooling. The publicly filed version says that “the most recent report from the Monitor indicates that [redacted]—which is often—[redacted].”
Los Angeles County is accused of failing to provide “compensatory education services” which are defined as “educational hours to which a youth is entitled, based on educational instruction not provided to a youth while detained at the Juvenile Hall.”
Another alleged failure is not implementing a “positive behavior management plan” which, a footnote explains, is “a system by which positive behavior by youth is reinforced through the provision of rewards.” The footnote elaborates: “For example, during the week, youth may be awarded or deducted ‘points’ based on their behavior—with the opportunity to exchange those points for tangible rewards on the weekend.”
In a brief separate motion, the Department of Justice asks Duffy-Lewis to validate its redactions or to seal portions of the papers. It notes that the stipulated judgment provides that “the Attorney General will maintain confidential all, and will not distribute or disclose any, non-public information provided by the County and/or any report(s) produced pursuant to this Judgment,...unless ordered by the Court or otherwise required by law.”
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