los angeles county

Possible Reopening of Controversial Juvenile Probation Camps for Youth Offenders Sparks Lawsuit, Protests

The issue came to light in September 2020 when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state's California Department of Juvenile Justice would begin closing its facilities.

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In November 2020, the Santa Clarita City Council approved a 375-unit project called Bouquet Canyon Residential. It will boast a public open space, hiking trails, recreation areas, and public parks.

Its neighbor is a shuttered juvenile correction facility that's being eyed for reopening to house some of Los Angeles County's most violent young offenders.

That has homeowners concerned.

"None of us are saying they don't need to find a better plan for taking care of them or getting them to a point to where they're not in jail constantly. But you don't put a prison 600 feet from homes," said Sue Fischer, who started the Facebook page, No Prison Development on Bouquet Canyon, last summer.

The issue came to light in September 2020 when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state's California Department of Juvenile Justice would begin closing its facilities, shifting responsibility of housing young offenders to the counties.

The LA County camps were selected in March on a vote of the LA County Board of Supervisors. Campus Vernon Kilpatrick in Malibu and Camp Joseph Scott in Santa Clarita were picked for the males and the Dorothy Kirby Center in Commerce was chosen to house females.

Camp Scott, which closed in May 2020 and is vacant, has a capacity to house 110. Probation officials say they anticipate being able to house up to 60 boys and young men there. Kilpatrick, opened 2017, can house up to 45. The Dorothy Kirby Center can house up to 15 girls and young women.

This week, the city of Santa Clarita announced a lawsuit against the county of Los Angeles, saying Camp Scott is unsuitable as a location for inmates. Santa Clarita City Council members and community members on Monday held a news conference announcing the California Environmental Quality Act lawsuit.

"Today was the beginning of very serious work to keep, not only our residents safe, but also the very people that will be serving time in this extremely inadequate prison," said Mayor Laurene Weste. "The Santa Clarita City Council is committed to stopping juvenile serious offenders from being placed at Camp Scott, and so is our Supervisor Kathryn Barger who voted against this atrociously, poor-thought out option for these violent criminals. I appreciate our community rallying together and standing strong against this plan. The City remains unwavering and will remain vigilant on this issue."

In a statement, Barger reacted to the Santa Clarita’s lawsuit.

"I'm not surprised that the City of Santa Clarita is challenging the Board of Supervisors' decision," she said. "I voted against housing juvenile offenders at Camp Scott because I backed the recommendations made by our Probation Department’s experts. These are the individuals hired by our Board to oversee and help these youth, and they clearly came to the conclusion that Nidorf Juvenile Hall is the better option. This matter continues to be very important to me. I will closely track the discussion and developments set in motion by the city’s lawsuit."

LA County has been working to reform the way it handles juvenile detention after problems in recent years with a rise in the use of pepper spray by probation officers on youth in custody.

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