Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

L.A. Juvenile Detention Center Remains “Unsuitable for the Confinement of Minors”

by Keith Sanders

On July 15, 2022, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for California’s Los Angeles County reported that the county’s juvenile detention facilities remain out of compliance with the requirements of a settlement agreement reached with the state Attorney General in January 2021, after an investigation by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed a host of deficiencies.

The new report follows another released just five months earlier, in February 2022, by the county’s Probation Oversight Commission (POC), which found detained youth were served food tainted with insects and were forced to wear dirty clothing, with some spending up to a week in solitary for disciplinary infractions.

The county’s Probation Department runs the two facilities, Central Juvenile Hall and Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall. At the latter, POC’s earlier report found “basic health and safety violations and the improper use of physical restraints.”

The new First Report on the Probation Department’s Compliance with the Department of Justice Settlement Agreement on Juvenile Halls was also not encouraging, faulting the facility for continued problems with security camera coverage.

The settlement agreement required sufficient cameras to document at least 90% of use-of-force incidents. But At Nidorf Hall, the share caught on camera was just 55%. Even when cameras were in place and turned on, their recordings were too blurry to provide evidence of what occurred in 15% of the instances of use of force.

Moreover, neither facility was able to make a single timely report on such instances to the department’s Force Intervention Response Support Team. The reports, which are due within seven days, took up to 181 days to be filed.

Under terms of the DOJ settlement, the county is subject to at least four years of court supervision, especially for “staff’s excessive use of force and inadequate training, a lack of medical and mental health care, and inappropriate isolation of youth.”

But nine months after that settlement was reached, in September 2021, the Board of State and Community Corrections announced that both juvenile halls were “unsuitable for the confinement of minors.”

Meanwhile, the state Department of Juvenile Justice began winding down use of its youth prisons, halting new intakes and shifting juvenile offenders to local detention facilities like the two in Los Angeles. Predictably, guards began abandoning the youth prisons at once, leaving them so short-staffed that their union, the California Peace Officers Association, was able to negotiate $50,000 “exit bonuses” for those who stick around.

With those youth now headed to local facilities, the need to fix what was found wrong in Los Angeles County is all the more urgent. But a particularly disturbing incident at Nidorf Hall showed how far there is to go when, on January 29, 2022, an “imposter” claiming to be a medical health professional walked past security and collected mouth swabs from seven youths, despite policy requiring visitors to present identification and professional credentials.

On June 22, 2022, the County approved a $15,080,00 budget for cameras at Nidorf Hall. But Milinda Kakani, who serves as director of youth justice for Children’s Defense Fund California, said that it “is clear more video cameras is not the answer.”

“Every paragraph in this report shows us why this is a terrible investment,” she insisted.

Sources: Corrections One, Daily Times, The Imprint, Los Angeles Times, Witness L.A.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login