by Jory Rand
Tuesday, May 23, 2023 7:38PM PT
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- State regulators voted to find two of L.A. County's troubled juvenile halls "unsuitable" to live in on Tuesday. Officials now have two months to move nearly 300 young people. But the County isn't sure where they will go.
L.A. County's juvenile halls have been problematic for years. The state has ordered them to be improved, but problems remained. Drugs have found their way into facilities, and severe staffing shortages causes problems as well.
One volunteer said that on Mother's Day, 96% of staff called out of work.
The juvenile system's problems culminated in an overdose death two weeks ago. Eighteen-year-old Bryan Diaz was found dead inside the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar.
Now the state is telling L.A. County that since they didn't fix the problems, they will. The state board overseeing juvenile detention centers has ordered L.A. County to remove all youth awaiting legal proceedings from the Sylmar facility, as well as from Central Juvenile Hall in Lincoln Heights.
"We have to get this right or there will be another Bryan Diaz," said Scott Budnick, a youth advocate. "There could be another Bryan Diaz any day now. There's nothing stopping it until we can get people to work."
The list of violations presented at the state board meeting was long and egregious.
During nighttime shifts, youths continue to urinate in their rooms, and staff are unable to respond to their requests. Furthermore, both facilities continue to deal with "call outs," overtime, inability to provide increased staffing for high-risk youth and are unable to get youths regularly to programs, recreation, outside for exercise and to school -- either on time or at all.
L.A. County admitted shortcomings at the meeting and asked for a five month extension to execute their plan.
"First of all, we'd like to ask for a continuance up to 150 days," said Margarita Perez of L.A. County.
But the board was having none of it.
"It seems that if we had a similar plan a year ago that we wouldn't be in the spot today. But we don't and we did not," said Kirk Haynes, the chief probation officer of Fresno County.
Dean Groton, the sheriff of Lassen County, also said the plan to fix the juvenile system's problems is overdue.
"Your plan that you outline is really the first evidence that I have seen over the last year, year and a half that Los Angeles County is taking this matter seriously. Unfortunately, it comes really a year too late," said Groton.
The board's chair said the order is difficult, but the time has come for something like it to occur.
"I will say I have heard this before from Los Angeles County. And I think the time has come to take an extraordinarily difficult move," said Chair Linda Penner.
L.A. County now has 60 days to get the juveniles who must be relocated to the previously closed Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey.
The county put out a statement saying that although they are disappointed with the board's decision, they will comply.
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