Attorney General Becerra, Los Angeles County Enter into Groundbreaking Settlements to Protect the Rights of Youth in the Juvenile Justice System
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Los Angeles County, and the Los Angeles County Office of Education today entered into settlements to improve the conditions and education services in the county's juvenile halls. The settlements come after a California Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation and work to address serious deficiencies regarding the treatment and conditions of confinement of youth in juvenile detention in the county, as well as concerns regarding the inadequate provision of education services to justice-involved youth. As a result of the investigation, the County of Los Angeles — including its Probation Department, Department of Mental Health, and Department of Health Services — and the Los Angeles County Office of Education have agreed to take a wide range of corrective actions, to be overseen by an independent monitor and subject matter experts, aimed at securing positive outcomes for justice-involved youth and ensuring systemic improvements to the county’s juvenile halls.
“One of our core duties as a society is to lay the foundation for our children to build a better future,” said Attorney General Becerra. “That has to be at the center of what we do as government when youth are entrusted to our care. Our institutions must strive to build up the most vulnerable among us. Regardless of what got them there, our youth deserve a chance to prepare themselves to launch a better life. We cannot condone or ignore any system that allows our kids to be mistreated or dehumanized. I applaud the county for working with us to correct the wrongs uncovered by our investigation and committing to help these youth get the resources they need.”
"This groundbreaking settlement opens a new chapter in Los Angeles County’s commitment to serving the young people in our care. It is an important element in the extensive juvenile justice reforms underway to ensure that while these youth are in the County’s camps and halls, they receive the support and education they deserve in a non-punitive environment,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis, Supervisor to the First District. “Although the findings in this case are troubling, this is a positive outcome that will make a meaningful difference to young people and families involved with our juvenile justice system. Los Angeles County fully cooperated with the Attorney General’s Office to achieve this settlement because it is our collective goal to improve our justice system, including creating opportunities in and pathways back to the community, so that our youth have the best chance and opportunity to thrive into adulthood. I want to thank Attorney General Becerra for his partnership in getting to this point.”
"We at the Los Angeles County Office of Education are passionate about our work and firm in our belief in the power of education to transform the lives of at-promise students in our juvenile hall schools," said Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo. "For the past year, we have cooperated closely with DOJ officials. The findings of their investigation demand that we all do better for the young people in our care. We welcome the opportunity to strengthen systems of collaboration and accountability so we can more effectively deliver the high-quality services our youth deserve."
In October of 2018, DOJ launched an investigation to determine whether conditions of confinement for youth at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall and Central Juvenile Hall were in compliance with state and federal laws. As part of the investigation, the Attorney General’s Office conducted multiple site visits, interviewed more than 80 witnesses, and reviewed thousands of pages of documents. Ultimately, as alleged in the complaint, DOJ found that the county provided insufficient services and endangered youth safety, including, among other things, by relying on excessive and inappropriate physical and chemical use of force. The investigation into the juvenile halls focused on use-of-force policies and incidents; room and solitary confinement policies and practices; the provision of rehabilitative programming, recreation, religious services, education, and medical and mental healthcare; access to and adequacy of grievance procedures; and staff training.
To address the investigation’s findings, DOJ and county authorities worked cooperatively to establish extensive four-year plans that provide for a number of corrective actions, which include:
- Homelike environment and operations, ensuring youth are housed in warm, homelike living units;
- Technology and data management, facilitating data collection and analysis required to demonstrate compliance with the settlements and allow for adequate ongoing internal review;
- Use of force and youth safety, limiting use of force, as well as requiring de-escalation and outside oversight and review of incidents;
- Trauma-informed and positive behavior approaches, enhancing holistic efforts to support youth;
- Room confinement, improving practices and safeguards to ensure youth are not unlawfully confined to their rooms;
- Basic living needs and juvenile hall conditions, including the provision of necessities such as hygiene items, bedding, and access to the bathroom;
- Programming, recreation, exercise, religious services, visitation, and telephone calls, ensuring and documenting that youth have access to legally required programs;
- Mental health, medical care, and treatment plans, ensuring timely medical and mental healthcare;
- Education, transition, and after-care, ensuring youth are provided appropriate education time and improving the process for transitioning youth back to school in the community;
- Staffing, hiring, and training, requiring sufficient staffing and training to comply with the settlements;
- Oversight and grievance systems, providing a trustworthy avenue for youth to get problems addressed; and
- Compensatory services for youth, helping fill the gap for youth who were improperly denied education during their detention.
Attorney General Becerra is committed to protecting the rights of youth in California and across the country. Last month, he took legal action to ensure compliance with a court order aimed at protecting children in Humboldt County from abuse and neglect. Last year, the Attorney General secured settlements with school districts in Barstow and Oroville to address discriminatory treatment of students based on race and disability status. Following troubling reports of discrimination and retaliation, Attorney General Becerra also announced a wide-ranging settlement with the Mojave Unified School District. In 2019, the Attorney General obtained a historic desegregation agreement with the Sausalito Marin City School District. He also reached an agreement with the Stockton Unified School District and its police department to address discriminatory treatment of minority students and students with disabilities. In addition, Attorney General Becerra issued an alert to all school districts in the state reminding school leaders of their obligation to protect the civil rights of students, especially in the face of reports indicating that implicit bias among school administrators leads to students of color and those with disabilities being disproportionately subjected to disciplinary action.
The Attorney General encourages those with information regarding suspected practices in violation of state or federal law involving youth to report them to the DOJ’s Bureau of Children’s Justice, through the online complaint form located at https://oag.ca.gov/bcj/complaint, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A copy of the settlement with the County of Los Angeles is available here. A copy of the settlement with the Los Angeles County Office of Education is available here. A copy of the complaint is available here.