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

Share This

Criminal Justice

State Board Orders The Closure Of Two Troubled LA County Juvenile Halls

Buildings viewed from above are laid out in aa modified triange, with the top right side angled. inside the rectangle is a grassy law. 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 board that oversees juvenile detention centers voted unanimously Tuesday to give Los Angeles County 60 days to close two troubled facilities that are out of compliance with a number of state requirements.

A report from the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) states that Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar and Central Juvenile Hall in Boyle Heights continue to be noncompliant on regular searches, programming, safety checks and several other requirements.

The county will have two months to transfer roughly 275 youth from the two facilities to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, which shut down in 2019 due to security, staffing and other issues.

Failing conditions

According to the BSCC, some youths reported that they were not let out of their rooms at night and had to “urinate in a receptacle.” Earlier this month, 18-year-old Bryan Diaz died of an apparent drug overdose at Nidorf.

Support for LAist comes from

Last year, a probation watchdog found that both facilities were using pepper spray despite a county order to phase out the practice.

Community activists have called attention to the conditions at both juvenile halls for years.

Several people who offered public comment at Tuesday's meeting described languishing at Nidorf, sitting for hours a day in common rooms with nothing but television for programming.

Aditi Sherikar of the activist group Los Angeles Youth Uprising and a senior policy associate at Children’s Defense Fund of California, said the decision is a step in the right direction, but she wishes the transfer could happen faster.

L.A. County officials pleaded with the BSCC Tuesday to grant 150 days to transfer youth out of the two facilities and into Los Padrinos. But the BSCC voted unanimously (with three members recusing themselves) for the expedited 60-day timeline, citing slow movement on compliance efforts and other issues.

Staffing and culture

The BSCC report points to insufficient staffing as one of the most serious problems facing the two facilities, which affects supervision, programming and other daily operations.

“Staffing is going to be the reason why there are going to continue to be safety issues for youth and for staff. I really have not heard a legitimate plan of what that is going to look like in the short term,” said BSCC member Kirk Haynes.

Consolidating the two facilities into Los Padrinos will help address staffing, access to treatment and other issues, L.A. County representatives said Tuesday.

Support for LAist comes from

The BSCC will conduct an inspection of Los Padrinos to ensure its habitability before youth are transferred there.

But Sherikar said transferring youth to Los Padrinos would not be a panacea.

“I think the crux of the issue is that it’s not the physical structures, it’s not the walls, it’s the people that staff these facilities [and] the culture of the staff in these facilities,” Sherikar told LAist.

Probation on debate

In 2020, the L.A. County Board Of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion that called for eventually ending the Probation Department's supervision of juveniles, passing control to the new Department of Youth Development (DYD).

Instead of holding justice-involved youth in the county's two juvenile halls and six probation camps, the board agreed in 2020 to explore how it could place them in "more of a home-like setting in communities, still with public safety in mind," as then Supervisor Sheila Kuehl described the plan.

Earlier this week, the supervisors resolved to transfer more of the responsibility for probation programs and services over to the DYD, but activists say progress is too slow.

LA Youth Uprising and other local youth justice reform advocates are calling on the county to move all youth out of probation custody by 2025 and into community-based care and housing under the DYD. They also want to see the county further invest in the DYD so the county can eventually move away from the current probation system and towards more rehabilitative programming with organizations based in the community.

What questions do you have about mental health in SoCal?
One of my goals on the mental health beat is to make the seemingly intractable mental health care system more navigable.

Most Read