View Full Version : juveniles to move to cya and not jails

07-09-2003, 11:33 PM
July 9, 2003


Juveniles Will Be Moved From Jail

Supervisors OK funds to hold youths at a CYA facility instead of men's downtown lockup.

By Greg Krikorian, Daren Briscoe and Jean Guccione, LA Times Staff Writers

Acknowledging that current jail conditions are unacceptable, Los Angeles County supervisors agreed Tuesday to spend $1.2 million to begin housing dozens of juveniles being tried as adults at a California Youth Authority facility rather than at the Men's Central Jail.
The county has about 150 youths being tried as adults at any given time. Most are held at juvenile hall. But up to 44 can be held at the Central Jail. Those sent to the jail are transferred there for a range of reasons, including disciplinary problems and the severity of the charges they face. Nearly 90% of those held at the Central Jail are accused of murder or attempted murder, said Los Angeles County Probation Department Chief Richard Shumsky.
The board's unanimous decision to imprison those minors at the CYA rather than the Central Jail represented a hard-fought victory for local ministers, youth advocates and others who have criticized conditions at the jail, where minors are confined to their cells up to 23 1/2 hours a day.
An analysis by the county showed that by contrast, minors held at the CYA facility would receive at least four hours a day outside their cells for exercise and other activities, including meals, counseling, religious services and gang intervention programs.
"We're very pleased the youths will be moved out of the inhumane conditions at county jail," said Javier Stauring, policy director of Faith Communities for Families and Children, an interfaith coalition of religious leaders promoting child welfare.
"It will go a long way toward returning some semblance of human dignity to these youths," he said.
The board's action came at the urging of Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. A member of the state Board of Corrections, Yaroslavsky proposed two weeks ago that the county look at alternatives to jailing of minors after The Times reported on conditions at the Central Jail and state corrections officials told him the facility "doesn't pass muster" as a place to incarcerate juveniles.
During a board discussion Tuesday, the county's chief administration officer was more blunt in describing the juvenile jail.
"It's just a terrible facility," David E. Janssen said.
While county staff had offered several alternatives to the current facility, Janssen's office recommended that authorities transfer the juveniles to the CYA facility in Norwalk. That facility, officials said, offered the best mix of security, staffing and educational opportunities for the minors, some of whom are eventually found innocent of the charges that led to their jailing.
While the move carries a $1.2-million price tag, officials said the cost will be offset by funds within the Probation Department, which oversees the county's juvenile halls.
"This is the best of all the options we have available," Yaroslavsky said.
While some critics of the current jail insisted all minors being tried in adult courts should be held in juvenile halls, Yaroslavksy strongly disagreed. "There are some really bad 17 and even 16 year olds," he said.
But Yaroslavsky agreed that juveniles housed at the Central Jail should be removed, and he warned colleagues that the county should do so before being forced to by the courts.
The Los Angeles County Grand Jury has criticized the facility and nongovernmental groups, from Human Rights Watch to the San Francisco-based Youth Law Center, have said they are investigating conditions at the facility.
"We need to make a move and make it quickly," Yaroslavsky said. "We're going to have to do it the hard way or the easy way and we ought to make it on our terms," he said.

Probation Department chief Shumsky said that about a third of the juveniles at the Central Jail were kept there because his department had asked the court to place them there because of their behavior, including involvement in gang fights and possession of contraband. Others, Shumsky said, wound up there after judges found them to be a danger to the public and a threat to other juveniles.
While supporting the move, Supervisor Don Knabe insisted that supervisors be provided information about security measures and risks associated with placing the juveniles at Norwalk or another nearby CYA facility. Both are located in his district.
"Both have the beds available, but they've also had reductions in security," Knabe said.
Supervisor Gloria Molina questioned the wisdom of transferring the juveniles, noting that the youth authority has had problems meeting legal standards for mental health and educational programs.
"Sometimes our juveniles are better off in probation [facilities] than being transferred to CYA," she said. "I do think [transferring them] is a shortsighted approach."
But ultimately supervisors agreed to the move with the proviso that they be kept abreast of the security measures and risks associated with placing the juveniles at a CYA facility.
The decision was applauded by state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), who had criticized conditions at the jail and had scheduled a hearing next week on the facility. That hearing, she said Tuesday, was canceled.
"I think we can declare victory today," said Romero, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on the California Correctional System. "These juveniles were being held in deplorable conditions and something had to be done.
"CYA has its own set of serious problems to be sure," she added. "And my committee will continue to analyze the treatment these minors receive there. But I am glad the supervisors agreed that they had a problem on their hands and took action to correct it."