The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors broke ranks Tuesday over where to house juvenile offenders set to be transferred from state to county custody beginning in 2023, with a 3-2 majority voting to rethink renovating camps in the Santa Clarita Valley for this purpose.
Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Sheila Kuehl failed to garner sufficient support for their proposal to create small group housing at Camps Scott and Scudder to allow for the kind of therapeutic, youth-focused treatment model that is employed at Camp Kilpatrick in Malibu. A plan to temporarily house female youth at the Dorothy Kirby Center in Commerce, which was highlighted for its mental health resources, was also rejected.
All of those proposals were based on recommendations of the Probation Department’s Juvenile Justice Realignment Block Grant Subcommittee, established to plan for the closure of the state’s Juvenile Justice Division. Instead, the board approved a substitute motion by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda Solis. In doing so, the board agreed with Kuehl and Mitchell that male youth would be temporarily housed at Kilpatrick, but called for a reassessment of all other options for temporary and permanent housing.
Based on the board’s vote, the Probation Department, working with the Juvenile Justice Realignment Block Grant Subcommittee and Youth Justice Advisory Committee, will consider and rank viable facilities.
“Identifying multiple placement options for the Division of Juvenile Justice youth is essential to support individual success and to help these youth reach their best possible outcomes,” Barger said in a statement.
In her motion, Barger objected to the lack of community input. Santa Clarita’s city attorney has raised concerns about the county’s due diligence and potential failure in following California Environmental Quality Act regulations when considering locations.
Nicole Brown of the Urban Peace Institute pushed back hard against that characterization during her comments to the board.
“CEQA is a classic NIMBY move. I went to the (Santa Clarita) city council meeting. This is not about environmental concerns, this is about an outdated superpredator mindset about our youth of color and their families, and it is rooted in racism,” Brown said.
Kuehl said the Juvenile Justice Realignment Block Grant Subcommittee — which includes representatives from the offices of the district attorney and public defender, the courts, social services, mental health and the county’s office of education — had already conducted a thoughtful analysis. She warned that the delay would just harm youth already in custody.
Barger said she was “not requesting the subcommittee to start over,” but said she wanted to be at the front of a discussion focused on operational needs, noting that a majority of the county’s juvenile camps are in the Fifth District she represents.
Addressing claims that she was opposed to placements in her district, Barger said “nothing could be further from the truth.”
Supervisor Janice Hahn, who was the deciding vote, leaned into a two-month deadline set for additional analysis. Barger’s motion called for report back in 60 days.
“We like to get things right,” Hahn said. “We like to do our due diligence … especially for something that is so permanent and has so many lasting consequences.”