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Barger rebuffed in effort to close troubled juvenile camp


Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger was spurned recently in her effort to permanently close a juvenile probation camp in Santa Clarita.

Barger introduced a motion seeking the permanent shuttering of Camp Scudder, saying the facility is incompatible with the county’s criminal justice vision. Camp Scudder operated as a juvenile detention facility for more than 60 years, but it has not housed any youth since 2019.

“We must reduce the number of county sites that detain youth in environments that aren’t focused on rehabilitation,” Barger said in a statement when she introduced the motion. “Our board has made a commitment to support a ‘Care First’ vision for our youth. Let’s permanently close this site, which cannot deliver on that promise.”

But the Board of Supervisors rejected the move on a 2-3 vote, with Supervisors Holly Mitchell, Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl dissenting. The vote came without any discussion.

Barger said she was “extremely surprised and disappointed” with the vote.

“Their failure to approve my motion to close Camp Scudder directly conflicts with the very policies they have claimed are backed by science and best practices,” Barger said in a statement after the vote. “My motion proposed permanent closure of an already closed juvenile camp since a recent study found it non-feasible for use due to not meeting current standards for housing youth in a homelike and therapeutic environment. It is an unnecessary cost to Los Angeles County taxpayers.

“As a board, we’ve articulated a commitment to embracing a ‘Care First, Jails Last’ approach to rehabilitate youth involved with the juvenile justice system in our county. Truly committing to that reform philosophy also means closing camps built when a different, punitive approach was in place.”

Barger’s motion came weeks after a heated board debate about the future of juvenile justice in the county, which will soon become responsible for housing and care for juvenile offenders who previously would have been sent to state detention facilities.

With the state closing its juvenile prisons, the county was forced to identify “Secure Youth Track Facilities” where those young offenders will be housed. Despite vehement arguments by Barger and Santa Clarita elected officials, the Board of Supervisors voted last month to place some of those youth at Camp Scott in Santa Clarita, with others at Camp Kilpatrick in Malibu and female offenders at Camp Kirby in Commerce.

Barger proposed instead that the youth offenders be housed at a Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar, which is already expected to undergo major renovations to bring it up to state codes for housing young offenders.