Behind LA’s Violent Juvenile Prisons Under Newsom

In Los Angeles County Juvenile Hall, inmates rule over security personnel. Guards now battle killers, car thieves, and gang members each and every day.

Local and state laws created to clear California jails have managed to reach juvenile services, where inmates can get away with almost anything short of killing, officials say.

The Worst Batch

While politicians release more young criminals into the community, those left inside are the worst.

Two seasoned probation officials outlined a desperate situation where security personnel routinely suffer devastating injuries without support from district legislators who want a lighter touch for young offenders.

A young troubled man sitting on a chair in a blurred background. In the front hands of a therapy specialist taking notes during an individual meeting. Copy space.

The Los Angeles County Parole Department staffs the municipality’s four juvenile jails, where officer numbers have dropped by 700. Officers and managers say PTSD drives out those who don’t retire from crippling injuries.

Los Angeles County Supervisors revised down use-of-force rules and banned nonlethal methods like pepper spray and stun guns while instating a hiring freeze, officials said.

Staff and officers are smuggling contraband for inmates to avert injury. Phones, computers, and drugs are acquired.

Los Angeles County has 600 detainees in Juvenile Hall, down from nearly 1,800 in the preceding four years. In 2020, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law closing California’s four juvenile jails, which held 750 mostly violent felons.

Officials said these inmates were moved to less secure district juvenile jails not intended to house major criminals. The closure paralleled what’s happening in adult jails, where offenses are lowered, and convicts are relocated to serve shorter terms.

Cause and Effect

Closing jails will allow youngsters to stay in their neighborhoods and near their relatives, Newsom said. In 2020, state youth jails had 14% murder, 37% assault, and 34% robbery convictions.

Newsom also passed a law prohibiting prosecutors from prosecuting jailed youths with a second serious offense. Adults still risk further prison time, but juveniles are penalized for the most severe offense, whether committed in jail or for the original crime. This motivates convicts to assault employees, cops stated.

A particular female cop had blood streaming from her nose and another with a large welt around her eye socket. The officer stated many police and personnel think it’s simpler to distribute contraband than be hurt.

The officer claimed inmates had little motivation to cooperate because their penalty is a few hours in their cells, then out in a group day room to make trouble.

Holly Mitchell, the chairperson of the Board of Supervisors, recently inspected one of the jails and was given an encouraging report, which the management called “smoke and mirrors.”

Mitchell declined an interview. Kathryn Barger, the board’s lone Republican, instructed the top probation officer to identify personnel options.

As more secure institutions shut, the county converts previous low-level offender camps into prisons. Malibu’s periphery wall will be open to the public, allowing outside talks with convicts and easy access to prohibited items.

Malibu was formerly a baseball boot camp for shoplifting teens. Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon tries to rehabilitate youths in the community, prosecutors say. Hardened offenders are behind in jail.

This article appeared in The Political Globe and has been published here with permission.