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    Newsom vetoes $1 billion fund for troubled LA County juvenile halls, camps
    • October 10, 2023

    Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill earmarking up to $1 billion to support infrastructure improvements at Los Angeles County’s embattled juvenile halls and camps.

    Newsom sent the bill, AB 695, back to the Assembly without his signature on Sunday, Oct. 8, saying he could not support it for financial reasons.

    “New grant programs such as the program proposed in this bill must be considered and evaluated in the annual budget process in the context of all state funding priorities,” Newsom wrote in his veto letter.

    This year, the Legislature passed bills outside of the budget process that would have added $19 billion in unaccounted costs if signed, he said.

    “With our state facing continuing economic risk and revenue uncertainty, it is important to remain disciplined when considering bills with significant fiscal implications, such as this measure,” Newsom wrote.

    Reformers applaud veto

    Juvenile justice reform advocates applauded Newsom’s decision, as they see the bill as a waste of taxpayer resources and maintain that problems at the juvenile halls have nothing to do with the physical structures.

    In a statement, Milinda Kakani and Aditi Sherikar, senior policy associates for the Children’s Defense Fund California, called on state and local legislators to use the bill’s veto to follow through with promised reforms.

    “AB 695 stood in stark contrast to Youth Justice Reimagined, a vision that involves replacing a fundamentally flawed Probation Department with a system rooted in community care and healing,” they stated. “Our hope is that this veto pushes LA County Supervisors and legislators to boldly implement that vision with urgency and fidelity.”

    AB 695, introduced by Assemblymember Blanca Pacheco, would have authorized the Board of State and Community Corrections — a state agency that recently shuttered two of Los Angeles County’s juvenile halls over poor conditions — to issue grants specifically to L.A. County for improvements such as the construction of new living quarters and modernized spaces for rehabilitative and educational programs.

    It did not set a dollar amount, though the Senate Appropriations Committee estimated the hit to the state’s general fund would be in the “high hundreds of millions” of dollars, potentially up to $1 billion, to address the “critical needs of the juvenile facilities in Los Angeles.”

    More deadlines loom

    The bill passed in the Legislature in September, the same week that the BSCC warned it may be forced to close more of Los Angeles County’s juvenile facilities if the county fails address a series of deficiencies discovered by state inspectors earlier this year.

    The Probation Department has until Tuesday, Oct. 10, and Oct. 18, respectively, to submit approved Corrective Action Plans for the Barry J. Nidorf Secure Youth Treatment Facility in Sylmar and Los Padrinos, the county’s largest juvenile hall, in Downey. If the plans are not approved, those facilities could be declared “unsuitable,” a designation that could force them to shutter within 60 days.

    Though all sides agree Los Angeles County needs to do more, AB 695 was divisive, even among county officials.

    Three county supervisors supported it, alongside a number of probation and law enforcement unions, as an opportunity to fund renovations and upgrades at Los Angeles County’s aging facilities and to build a new training facility for the Probation Department.

    Facility issues

    Los Padrinos originally opened in 1957 and, though it underwent significant renovations before it reopened in July, much more work is needed to bring it up to modern standards.

    Not long after it reopened, visitors complained of broken air conditioners, moldy smells, and dripping paint.

    A youth managed to scale one of the walls during an escape attempt in the first month before he was recaptured in a neighboring golf course.

    County officials have discussed building a system of nets around the facility to prevent contraband from being thrown over the walls, installing airport-style body scanners at the entrances and creating separate, self-contained “campuses’ throughout the facility.

    ‘Reimagining’ youth justice

    But juvenile justice reform advocates and the other two supervisors believed the high level of funding through AB 695 would tether the county to its long-troubled Probation Department and stymie efforts to dismantle the current system through Youth Justice Reimagined, a proposal unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2020.

    Youth Justice Reimagined proposed placing youth in the custody of the newly created Department of Youth Development and would dedicate resources to diversion and intervention programs, in-home confinement and to the construction of smaller “safe and secure healing centers” spread throughout the county.

    The county will, however, need to change state law for that to become a reality, as currently only probation departments and probation officers can oversee the custody of juveniles.

    Related links

    Bill would give LA County juvenile halls up to $1 billion in funding, if they aren’t shut down first
    Teen recaptured after escaping from Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall during brawl with staff
    LA County moves first 88 youth detainees to Los Padrinos ahead of state shutdown
    ACLU condemns LA County plan to reopen Los Padrinos, assign reserve deputies to troubled juvenile halls
    Court will oversee reforms to L.A. County juvenile halls plagued with abuse, unsafe conditions, state A.G. says

    ​ Orange County Register