Criminal filings at LA County juvenile facilities – NBC Los Angeles

There have been dozens of new criminal filings at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall since July 2023 when it re-opened through January of this year, according to a document from the Los Angeles County Probation Department sent to the Probation Oversight Commission.   

The document, obtained by the NBCLA I-Team, details 36 new cases for violations including assault and battery on a peace officer. The document states there were 13 assaults on detention officers by youth during that time period.    

The Department also writes “the highest number of new filings involved youth or young adults housed at [Los Padrinos] and resulted from youth-on-youth assaults, known as ‘pack outs.’ This type of assault involves multiple youth assaulting a single youth.”  

Earlier this week, the Probation Department announced the arrest of a probation officer for alleged sexual activity with a young person.  

The Probation Department says that incident happened inside the Dorothy Kirby facility in Commerce. It involved a female officer accused of having a sexual relationship with a young man, and the case remains under investigation, according to the department.  

Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall and Barry J Nidorf Secure Youth Treatment Facility, which houses a number of youth facing more serious charges, were both found unsuitable last month by the California Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) for not meeting required standards.  

The BSCC gave the Probation Department 60 days to correct outstanding issues. That date is April 16. A spokesperson for the BSCC tells the I-Team, “Should the facilities remain out of compliance after the 60-day period, the county will be required to transfer youth to an appropriate facility.”  

Late today, the Probation Department sent us a four-page response, outlining changes it’s making to facilities: 

“The Probation Department is committed to full implementation of any corrective actions that strengthens and improves the operations of our juvenile facilities.    

Some actions have already been taken and other efforts are underway:  

·          On November 8, 2023, the Probation Department installed razor wire on the entire west perimeter wall and about a quarter of the northwest perimeter wall. The Department installed razor wire on the remaining facility walls on December 11, 2023.  

·          The Probation Department referred at least one staff member to its Internal Affairs Bureau to investigate policy violations.  

·          LPJH supervisors plan to facilitate periodic classification reviews based on highlighted criteria, such as relative sophistication (social maturity and gang involvement), criminal sophistication, special handling codes (escape, suicidal, dangerous, etc.), and public safety considerations, to consider the level of supervision of the youths.  

To address the staffing concerns raised in the report, the Department is implementing the following emergency staffing changes:  

·          Deputy Probation Officers assigned to field operations will be reassigned to Barry J. Nidorf or Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in 60-day increments.  

·          Staff will be reassigned in groups of 50, at a minimum, to Barry J. Nidorf and 200, at a minimum to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall.  

·          Deployed staff will attend all necessary and required trainings prior to their deployment.  

In addition, the Department will reassign sworn managers to both facilities as follows:  

·          Directors and Assistant Directors will be reassigned to Barry J. Nidorf and Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall for a period of 90 days to assist with BSCC Title 15 compliance, facility operations and support staff assigned to the living units.  

·          Managers will attend all necessary and required training prior to deployment.  

Additional Efforts to Improve the Operations  

·          Board Motion of January 9, 2024 – Restructure the Department’ Internal Affairs Bureau by creating a new, distinct, unrepresented internal affairs classification.    

·          Review existing job duties and requirements which may result in changes to and/or consolidation of classifications to professionalize our sworn positions.   

Additional Efforts to Enhance Security  

The Department continues to implement its plans to address contraband concerns in the facility. The Department is collaborating with outside agencies that have technology and capacity to assist in investigations of electronic devices. Over a dozen Safety and Security Specialist were deployed the first week of December and have been present with K9 to monitor visiting each weekend. In addition, these security specialists conduct exterior perimeter checks.   

Additional measures to enhance safety include:  

·         Tek84 body scanners have been procured and have a three-week estimated time of delivery and installation. Tek84 body scanners detect both metallic and nonmetallic threats, including weapons, drugs, cell phones and other contraband. Screens from below the feet to above the head revealing items under the clothing and within the body.  

·         Effective September 2023, Special Enforcement Operations and contracted canine services are scheduled for seven days a week coverage, which includes canine presence at the entrance each Saturday and Sunday during visiting.  

·         Mandating daily living unit inspections to ensure cameras are unobstructed.  

·         A facility improvement plan that included lighting, cameras, electronic access points, and key control was discussed and a walk-thru completed with Internal Services Division.  

·         MailSecur® contraband detection technology was deployed to Los Padrinos and Barry J. Nidorf Treatment Center in December. MailSecur® uses safe T-rays to provide a real-time 3D view of contents concealed in letters, parcels, and other items – without opening them. It is ideally suited for corrections to detect drugs and contraband in inmate mail. MailSecur® is the only screening solution that can effectively detect all forms of drugs and contraband – the smallest quantity of liquids, powders, drugs, electronics, drug-laced papers, suboxone, sharps, and other suspicious items.   

·         High definition Videoscope Cameras were procured by CSSO and distributed to Los Padrinos, Barry J. Nidorf, and East Camps to assist with contraband searches and detection.  

Use of Pepper Spray  

On July 8, 2021, the Los Angeles County Probation Oversight Commission (POC) requested that the Department provide a written report to the POC on the progress of implementing the elimination of the use of oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray, including a timeline with dates for key interim benchmarks and steps toward elimination, and a specific target date when the use of OC spray will be eliminated. As of this date, the plan and timeline for eliminating OC have not been completed, as we assess how to address and mitigate ongoing incidents of youth-on-youth assaults, physical altercations between youth, incidents of riots and escape attempts, and assaults against staff.  

The Probation Department is committed to downscaling and ultimately eliminating the use of OC, and a plan without a definitive elimination date will be provided to the POC no later than April 1, 2024. Specific timelines will be identified as the facility culture of violence previously noted subsides through staff training, youth education, and influence through reimagined strategies of effective youth programming and youth supervision, care, and safe and secure custody management.   

The Department continues to collaborate with the California Department of Justice court appointment monitor to develop an updated OC spray phase out strategy.    

The Creation of the Juvenile Safety and Welfare Task Force  

The opioid fentanyl epidemic has affected so many in a variety of detrimental ways, and we want to do our part as public servants to put a stop to it. Through the formation of our Juvenile Safety and Welfare Task Force, we are dedicated to ensuring that those who contribute to the distribution of illegal substances to our youth within the detention facilities are held accountable.   

The Juvenile Safety and Welfare Task Force is a crucial stride in our collective efforts to create a secure environment. Our goal is to provide a safe, therapeutic, and rehabilitative environment that prepares the youth for a successful transition back into the community as responsible and productive citizens.  

The Juvenile Safety and Welfare Task Force is run out of the Probation Department and staffed with members from different agencies who are experts in ensuring facility security, investigating, enforcement, and prosecution. The mission of the Task Force includes:  

·          Investigating and prosecuting violations of the law in response to incidents of trafficking illegal contraband into youth detention facilities.  

·          Combating unlawful efforts to undermine the safety of detained youth and maintain a safe and secure environment.  

·          Targeting outreach and prevention efforts to youth and parents, caregivers, and guardians to provide education about the risk of vaping, use of illegal drugs and what rises to the level of a contraband/crime in facilities.  

The Task Force is in direct response to Chief Guillermo Viera Rosa’s identifying strategies for improving safety at our juvenile facilities. In addition to the task force, the Department is also exploring ways to develop stronger partnerships between staff, parents, support networks, and our youth to keep our facilities safe and free from drugs.  

The establishment of the Juvenile Safety and Welfare Task Force underscores the department’s ongoing commitment to maintaining a safe and secure environment within its juvenile institutions. The task force will support the department’s efforts to prevent contraband from entering the facilities, ensuring the well-being of youth, staff, and visitors.  

Employee Misconduct  

Since Chief Guillermo Viera Rosa’s appointment, he’s worked to ensure that the Probation Department shares information we can legally share publicly because it is an important step forward in his commitment to bring new leadership, transparency, and accountability to this department.    

The Chief is committed to providing a safe and secure environment that gives the youth committed to our care a clear path to rehabilitation. He is actively identifying and removing those who do not align with our core values and standards to eliminate the negative influences within our organization.  

In instances where it makes sense and to maintain the integrity of investigations involving personnel, the Department’s Internal Affairs will not be involved in the investigation.   

In addition, we’ve referred cases where warranted, to the LA County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney.  

The actions of a few probation officers do not define the integrity and dedication of the entire LA County probation community. The vast majority of probation officers uphold the highest standards of professionalism, compassion, and ethical conduct in their daily responsibilities. As we work to address misconduct, we remain focused on supporting and acknowledging the commitment of the overwhelming majority who diligently serve our youth and their communities with integrity and compassion.”  

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