I’m gratified that the Board of Supervisors has approved a bold new plan today that will discontinue our housing of predisposition youth at Central and Barry J. Nidorf Halls, and move them into a renovated Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, where we can better meet their needs.

We are taking this dramatic step of reinventing juvenile operations to put the safety and welfare of our youth at the center of our efforts. It is simply the right thing to do.

As we wipe the slate clean, we’re leaving behind a traditional, incremental approach that has bred distrust and confusion. Instead, we are embracing radical change — change that I’m convinced will demonstrably improve the care that our youth receive, the accountability the public demands and the professionalism the State requires.

To get this done, we have activated the Probation Department Operations Center, a centralized command that will pull from all County departments to tackle obstacles and achieve plan milestones. These milestones include unprecedented steps to leverage our existing facilities, implement administrative safeguards and create new pools of probation officers that will prevent a repeat of the issues we’ve been grappling with for so long in the juvenile justice division.

These steps are:

  • Converting Central Hall into a law-enforcement intake, processing and medical assessment unit.
  • Converting a portion of Nidorf into separate, home-like housing for post-disposition Secure Youth Treatment Facility youth returning to LA County from State custody.
  • Forming a permanent regulatory compliance team, reportable to my position, that will make sure we are living up to State standards.
  • Developing a new employee classification to create a pool of reserve peace officers who embrace the Care First vision and can serve as on-call, part-time probation officers, much like substitute teachers.
  • Using graduate students and other County employees, such as lifeguards, to assist with non-deputized duties so that sworn probation officers can be freed up to work with our youth.
  • Spending nearly $19 million to reopen and renovate Las Padrinos into a more therapeutic, less institutional environment, and another $5 million each to retrofit Central and Nidorf for their new missions.

This plan is not a quick fix or an expedient to buy time with the Board of State and Community Corrections or the California Department of Justice. It aims for nothing short of a remaking our juvenile operations in keeping with the County’s Youth Justice Reimagined strategy. I fully appreciate that this plan for our current juvenile operations is controversial and will face opposition from some stakeholders.

Still, I’m convinced that working together we can find solutions to move forward. Now, more than ever, we need to partner with families, labor and other stakeholders to ensure we are creating the best environment for our youth to succeed. And as we activate this plan, I’m confident it will become clear that the County is committed and determined to resolve the problems in juvenile operations with the goal of enhancing the welfare of the youth entrusted to our care.