Officials address sex abuse allegations in LA County juvenile probation camps

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SUGGESTED: CA orders Los Padrinos juvenile Hall to comply or close

A state regulatory board Thursday deemed two Los Angeles County juvenile detention centers "unsuitable" to house youth detainees, beginning a 60-day clock for the county to rectify issues of noncompliance, after which the board could order the facilities to close.

Officials wrote to the Department of Justice Tuesday expressing concerns over recent complaints regarding the safety and well-being of juveniles detained in probation camps across Los Angeles County.

U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler called for the DOJ to detail their recent and planned actions to address wrongdoings in the LA County probation camps.

Since the early 2000s, there have been repeated reports of sexual abuse at the probation camps, according to the officials' letter. These reports prompted an investigation by the DOJ into the conditions of these facilities.

The DOJ and Los Angeles County agreed on a plan to improve the probation camps and entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for supervision of the camps that lasted for approximately eight years. In 2015, the MOA was terminated when DOJ found the Camps to be in compliance with the conditions of the agreement.

Since then, however, new allegations of sexual abuse at the probation camps have been reported, officials said.

In August 2022, deputy probation officers and other employees at the probation department facilities (70 plaintiffs in total) filed a lawsuit against the County of Los Angeles for sexual abuse, harassment, and molestation incidents that occurred between 1985 and 2019.

Later that year, 279 plaintiffs filed another lawsuit, claiming repeated sexual abuse by probation officers.

"Many of these reports are not only deeply disturbing, but they also generate many questions regarding the DOJ monitoring and accountability protocols in place for these institutions," wrote the Senators.

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"The [Memorandum of Agreement] resulted from the County’s clear failure to protect youth from harm, including at the hands of Deputy Probation Officers responsible for their care and wellbeing," continued the Senators. "However, this abuse of institutionalized children clearly continued, and as a result, hundreds, if not thousands, of young girls were abused, and their lives forever altered. Given the reports of childhood sexual abuse spanning decades, we have grave concerns how the camps were deemed in compliance by DOJ in 2015."

In their letter, Padilla and Butler requested that the DOJ provide the evidence and information that led to the termination of the camps' Memorandum of Agreement, describe any complaints the DOJ has received since conduct monitoring ended in 2015, and detail any actions that the DOJ has taken over the camps.

Officials requested this information be presented within the next 30 days.

Los Angeles County currently has two juvenile halls, Los Padrinos and Barry J. Nidorf, which hold over 300 juveniles. In February, state regulators found that the conditions at the facilities remained "unsuitable" and ruled that the County must evacuate all juveniles or make substantial improvements within two months.

In Los Angeles County’s 2023-24 Recommended Budget, it was estimated that the County would be forced to pay between $1.6 billion and $3 billion to resolve the more than 3,000 claims alleging childhood sexual assault at various County and non-county facilities.