Support for LAist comes from
Made of L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

Criminal Justice

State AG Wants To Force LA County To Speed Up Improvements At Juvenile Facilities

Buildings viewed from above are laid out in aa modified triangle, with the top right side angled. Inside the rectangle is a grassy lawn. A pool of water is visible near the top middle.
An aerial view of Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall.
(Google Earth)
Support your source for local news!
The local news you read here every day is crafted for you, but right now, we need your help to keep it going. In these uncertain times, your support is even more important. Today, put a dollar value on the trustworthy reporting you rely on all year long. We can't hold those in power accountable and uplift voices from the community without your partnership. Thank you.

The state Attorney General’s office is asking a judge to force Los Angeles County to speed up its efforts to correct the “illegal and unsafe conditions of confinement” at the county’s two embattled juvenile halls.

Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a motion this week to enforce provisions of a 2021 stipulated judgment against the county. He said L.A. is not living up to its legal obligation to provide enough staffing so youths can be enrolled in and taken to school; taken to important medical appointments; and have sufficient time outdoors for recreation and exercise.

"Due in part to a staffing crisis plaguing the juvenile halls, the county has not just failed to make forward progress towards compliance with the judgment: It has actually regressed away from complying with the most basic and fundamental provisions that ensure youth and staff safety and well-being," Bonta’s office said in a statement.

It cited recent reports of fentanyl use in facilities, requiring the use of Narcan on two youths, and general negligence.

Support for LAist comes from

“And as a result of low staffing levels, youth have been forced to urinate and defecate in their cells overnight,” the statement said, adding that employees have had to work “more than 24-hour-long shifts” due to staffing shortages.

It said the shortages have led to a reliance on temporarily reassigned field officers who are not trained to work with youths.

“The conditions within the juvenile detention centers in Los Angeles County are appalling,” Bonta said in the statement. “Every child in our state is entitled to a safe, homelike environment.”

The attorney general’s motion seeks to force the county to:

  • Ensure the timely transport of youths to school daily, and to other education services they’re entitled to.
  • Ensure they have daily access to outdoor recreation.
  • Document use-of-force incidents as set forth in the 2021 judgment.
  • Implement a “positive behavior management plan."
  • Install video cameras throughout Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar.

If a judge approves the motion, the county would have to submit periodic status reports and face possible sanctions if it does not comply within 120 days.
The L.A. County probation department, which oversees the juvenile facilities, said in a statement that it has worked closely with the court-appointed monitor overseeing the 2021 judgment, and that it has been taking steps to comply.

“Central to those efforts is an accelerated hiring and incentive plan addressing the staffing shortages at Central and Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Halls,” it said. “The plan is aimed at curtailing absenteeism and leaves by current probation staff, while adding 450 new or transferred officers by the end of 2024.”

Probation said it has installed a “state-of-the-art electronic room check system” in the halls and that it is in the process of putting security cameras in common areas.

The county’s juvenile detention facilities have been troubled for years, with incidents ranging from violence and unrest to the pepper-spraying of youths; just this week, the Los Angeles Times reported that a probation officer was stabbed in the neck at the Sylmar facility.

This all comes as the state board that oversees juvenile facilities is deciding whether L.A. County’s juvenile halls can even stay open.

Support for LAist comes from

On Thursday, the California Board of State and Community Corrections gave the county until mid-May to prove it’s making progress toward correcting a number of problems. Even if it determines by then that the county is making sufficient progress, the board is only giving the county until mid-June to fix all the problems at the juvenile facilities.

What questions do you have about Southern California?

Most Read