Supervisors Order Review of Alleged ‘Abuse’ of Juveniles in Jail

August 4, 2016 by · 1 Comment 

Spurred by allegations of abuse in county juvenile halls and camps, the Board of Supervisors called Tuesday for a detailed report on three years of incidents and a review of policies and protocols.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recommended the review based on “recent allegations that we cannot and will not ignore.”

“Reforming our juvenile justice system remains a big, big challenge for the county of Los Angeles,” Ridley-Thomas said.

A report of four probation officers allegedly caught beating a 17-year-old at a Sylmar juvenile hall on April 24 prompted the move.

The District Attorney’s Office is reviewing the Sylmar encounter — captured on video and subsequently reported by the blog WitnessLA — but has not yet made a decision on whether to file charges, according to D.A.’s spokeswoman Jane Robison.

WitnessLA did not make the video itself available, explaining that it involved a minor, but posted still photos with the boy’s face blurred. It reported that an officer slammed the 17-year-old onto a cot that amounts to a rectangular concrete block and then others piled on to knee, hold or punch the teen.

A supervisor entered the room at one point while the alleged beating was in progress and then turned around and left, according to WitnessLA.

On May 31, Los Angeles police were called to Central Juvenile Hall, east of downtown, to respond to a report that a youth was assaulted by a probation officer who pulled the handcuffed boy up by his sweatshirt, choking him with the garment, when the juvenile repeatedly used a racial slur, WitnessLA reported.

None of the members of the board mentioned either of those alleged incidents or any other specific abuses before voting unanimously in favor of the three-year report and a review of protocols covering reporting of incidents and a discussion of how staff are held accountable

The Probation Department is responsible for managing 13 probation camps and three juvenile halls and has long struggled to protect the youth in its care.

The Department of Justice monitored the county’s juvenile facilities for six years, with a final report issued this past February.

The Board of Supervisors has since considered broader reforms, including restructuring the Probation Department, potentially splitting units responsible for adults and minors and closing some facilities.

The board has already committed to rebuild Camp Kilpatrick — a penitentiary-style boys camp with large dorms — as a smaller-scale, therapeutic model with boys housed in cottages of 12. It is also evaluating whether Camp Scott could be converted into a similar small-group model for girls.

“Stay tuned,” Ridley-Thomas said Tuesday.

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