California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Los Angeles County, and the Los Angeles County Office of Education Wednesday entered into settlements to improve the conditions and education services in the county’s juvenile halls.
The settlements come after a California Department of Justice investigation into deficiencies in treatment and conditions for those in juvenile detention in the county. As a result of the investigation, the county of Los Angeles has agreed to take a wide range of corrective actions, to be overseen by an independent experts, aimed at securing positive outcomes for justice-involved youth and ensuring systemic improvements to the county’s juvenile halls.
“One of our core duties as a society is to lay the foundation for our children to build a better future,” Becerra said. “That has to be at the center of what we do as government when youth are entrusted to our care. Our institutions must strive to build up the most vulnerable among us. Regardless of what got them there, our youth deserve a chance to prepare themselves to launch a better life. We cannot condone or ignore any system that allows our kids to be mistreated or dehumanized. I applaud the county for working with us to correct the wrongs uncovered by our investigation and committing to help these youth get the resources they need.”
Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis applauded the settlement, saying it “opens a new chapter in Los Angeles County’s commitment to serving the young people in our care. It is an important element in the extensive juvenile justice reforms underway to ensure that while these youth are in the county’s camps and halls, they receive the support and education they deserve in a non-punitive environment.”
Solis said that although the findings in the case “are troubling,” she said “this is a positive outcome that will make a meaningful difference to young people and families involved with our juvenile justice system. Los Angeles County fully cooperated with the Attorney General’s Office to achieve this settlement because it is our collective goal to improve our justice system, including creating opportunities in and pathways back to the community, so that our youth have the best chance and opportunity to thrive into adulthood.”
In October 2018, the DOJ launched an investigation to determine whether conditions of confinement for youth at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall and Central Juvenile Hall were in compliance with state and federal laws. As part of the investigation, the Attorney General’s Office conducted multiple site visits, interviewed more than 80 witnesses, and reviewed thousands of pages of documents.
Ultimately, as alleged in the complaint, the DOJ found that the county provided insufficient services and endangered youth safety, including, among other things, relying on excessive and inappropriate physical and chemical use of force. The investigation into the juvenile halls focused on use-of-force policies and incidents, room and solitary confinement policies and practices, the provision of rehabilitative programming, recreation, religious services, education, and medical and mental healthcare, and access to and adequacy of grievance procedures; and staff training.
“The need to shift the county’s youth justice system towards a developmentally appropriate rehabilitative paradigm and away from a punitive approach is needed more than ever,” Supervisor Holly Mitchell said. “This settlement agreement presents an opportunity to strengthen accountability and bolster the work of transforming and reimagining youth justice.”
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