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L.A. County Under Fire on Two Fronts to Clean Up Jails

Los Angeles County officials have two months to move about 300 youths out of two troubled juvenile halls after state regulators ordered the unprecedented action based on a finding that they are "unsuitable" and do not comply with state regulations, the Los Angeles Times reports. The unanimous decision by the Board of State and Community Corrections leaves the county scrambling to vacate Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar and Central Juvenile Hall in Boyle Heights by mid-July. The Probation Department said it plans to move the entire population into Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, which was closed in 2019 amid a reduced population and allegations of abuse by staff. The order to move detainees comes after the state granted a series of deadline extensions to the county since first deeming the halls unsuitable in 2021. Conditions within the facilities have worsened as violent incidents and overdoses have risen. An acute staffing crisis has meant not enough officers working to let youths out of their rooms, much less outside into fresh air. Those same limitations have led to cancellation of family visits, limited or nonexistent schooling or even stalled access to therapy — all issues that advocates, staff and juveniles in custody have said lead to additional fights and deteriorating mental health conditions for detainees.

The juvenile halls are not L.A. County's only jail headache. County Jail healthcare workers protested outside the Men's Central Jail on Wednesday, declaring it overcrowded and understaffed, KCAL News reports. "We know that people who are here deserve humane conditions. They deserve healthcare, mental healthcare and they deserve to be safe when they are here," said Katrina Thompson, a registered nurse. The county jail healthcare union, SEIU 721, says the workforce is stretched thin with one in three positions vacant. They say the staff is overextended as they care for the overall jail population that routinely exceeds capacity on any given day by at least 20%. The protesters issued a public invitation to U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson, who previously toured the jail and has threatened to hold the county in contempt for not acting quickly enough to improve conditions, to return for "a real jail tour" hosted by the healthcare workers. In an April hearing, after a county lawyer suggested the county would "roll out the red carpet" to show the judge firsthand the improvements that had been made, Pregerson responded: “I don’t want the red carpet, and when I saw it initially, it was horrible.”


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