Supv. Holly J. Mitchell (File photo)

In response to the crisis in juvenile halls and Los Angeles County’s commitment to Care First Jails Last, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion on March 21, authored by Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell and co-authored by Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath to create a structured release system that is aligned with best practices for effectively reunifying young people with their community.

The motion calls on the Probation Department and its partners to proactively identify young people for early release or to be transferred to the least restrictive placement possible that most appropriately meets their needs.

“The pandemic has shown us that we can successfully release young people who can be safely moved to more developmentally appropriate placements that are better suited for preparing them to reunify with their community. This motion builds on previous work by creating and implementing a plan for depopulating our juvenile halls and getting young people into the least restrictive placements that will ultimately serve them and our County better,” said Mitchell.

“This motion is making good on our Care First, Jails Last vision by supporting young people who are ready to be released back into school and community and ensuring that each young person entrusted to the County’s justice system has a carefully crafted plan outlining the support needed for their release,” said Horvath.

“Young people who are in their critical years of development need and deserve improved coordination between the justice system, courts, and attorneys so that everyone is working together in their best interest without delay.”

The operations of the County’s juvenile halls have a long history of failing to meet basic standards of care for young people.  The Probation Department (Department) is required to achieve full compliance with Board of State and Community Corrections regulations by mid-June or risk being ordered to vacate the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall (BJNJH) and Central Juvenile Hall (CJH).

Depopulation of the juvenile halls would lower the number of staff required to work at BJNJH and CJH, helping to address the BSCC-compliance issue of insufficient staffing (due to a low percentage of Probation staff showing up to work) in the halls. Failure to achieve full compliance may result in young people in the Department’s care to receive out-of-county placements and transfers to the adult system.

The motion calls for the need to urgently depopulate the juvenile hall facilities to ensure the safety and overall well-being of young people in the custody of the Probation Department. The motion directs the Chief Probation Officer, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders and departments to identify young people who are appropriate candidates for safe and early release from the Probation’s Department camps and halls.