Los Angeles County’s Struggling Juvenile Halls Granted Extension, Allowed to Remain Operational Following Enhancements

Los Angeles County’s juvenile detention centers, once at risk of closure due to safety concerns and other issues, have received a reprieve as state regulators decided on Thursday to allow them to remain operational.

The Board of State and Community Corrections voted to remove the “unsuitable” designation previously placed on Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar and Central Juvenile Hall in Boyle Heights. These facilities were facing potential closure on April 16 due to failed inspections over the past year.

Last year, the state board, responsible for inspecting youth prisons, found that the county had failed to address various issues such as inadequate safety protocols, staffing shortages, incidents of forceful interventions, and insufficient recreational opportunities.

While acknowledging some improvements made by the county, Board Chair Linda Penner emphasized that the outcome of the vote should not be seen as the end goal. She urged county officials to focus on sustaining and ensuring the durability of these improvements moving forward.

However, the decision to allow the facilities to remain open was not unanimous. Only six out of thirteen board members supported the decision, with three voting against it due to concerns about the county’s ability to maintain improvements in the long term. The remaining four members either abstained or recused themselves from the vote.

The Los Angeles County Probation Department, responsible for overseeing the juvenile halls, highlighted efforts to stabilize staffing levels and enhance training procedures. Probation Chief Guillermo Viera Rosa acknowledged that while progress has been made, there is still much work to be done.

Advocates for prison reform, such as the Peace and Justice Law Center, emphasized the need for substantial and lasting solutions rather than temporary fixes. They expressed plans to conduct a private audit to understand why the board reversed its decision and favored compliance over years of failure to meet minimum standards.

This decision comes amid California’s transition from state-run youth prisons to county-controlled facilities, marking the final step in a reform effort driven by litigation and incentives to keep young offenders out of the state system. The move aims to address the troubled history of the state-run system, which has been marred by issues like inmate suicides and violent incidents.

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