Barger calls for thorough investigation
A detainee at a Los Angeles County juvenile hall died of an apparent overdose this week.
According to the county Probation Department, the unidentified “young adult was found dead at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall” in Sylmar.
“Our nursing staff immediately administered emergency services, including the use of (anti-overdose medication) Narcan,” according to a statement from Guillermo Viera Rosa, chief strategist for juvenile operations for the Probation Department. “We have notified the family and will cooperate fully with law enforcement on a thorough investigation of the incident. We have also dispatched peer support personnel and mental health professionals to the facility for crisis counseling of youth and our staff. In the meantime, I want to convey our most profound condolences to the youth’s family.”
No details about the youth who died were released. The Los Angeles Times, which first reported the death, reported that the teen was no older than 18.
County Supervisor Kathryn Barger issued a statement calling the death “devastating and inexcusable.”
“Being under the county’s supervision should translate into having safe and compassionate care but we are falling short,” she said. “I’ve been a proponent of making big changes–including appointing an outside expert strategist that reports directly to our board to turn around the department’s juvenile operations–but tragically the changes didn’t come soon enough.
“I want a thorough and expedient investigation to understand all the facts about this young man’s death. There are still a lot of unanswered questions. To be clear, this isn’t going to be a blame game. This needs to be about transparency and accountability so this terrible tragedy does not happen again.”
The death came on the day county attorneys appeared in court in response to allegations by state prosecutors that conditions in the facilities were “appalling.”
Last month, state Attorney General Rob Bonta slammed the condition of the juvenile halls and filed court papers seeking to force the county to immediately remedy “illegal and unsafe” conditions. The motion filed in Los Angeles Superior Court asks for an order requiring the county to comply with a 2021 judgment ordering improvements in conditions at juvenile halls, including improved staffing levels and ensuring that youth in the county’s care are taken to school and medical appointments.
A hearing on that motion was held Tuesday morning. In a tentative ruling, Judge Michael Lindfield noted that neither the state nor the county dispute that conditions in the juvenile halls “do not meet the conditions set forth” in the 2021 judgment.
The judge noted that the county “has offered various reasons for its failure to comply with the stipulated judgment.”
“While some of these reasons may be legitimate, they are of small comfort to those children who are currently not receiving adequate care in our juvenile facilities,” he wrote.
Linfield’s tentative ruling called for officials from the county and the state Attorney General’s Office to meet in the coming weeks and lay out proposed deadlines for complying with the judgment, with another court hearing tentatively set for June 20 to determine the next steps.
The state Board of State and Community Corrections has been considering possibly ordering the shutdown of the county’s juvenile halls altogether due to lack of compliance with state regulations. The board declined to do so at its meeting last month, but another hearing is set for May 23.