Juvenile inmate plan raises concerns


L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Santa Clarita City Council members were surprised this week by news of a state-appointed committee’s plan to move juvenile offenders to a pair of facilities in Saugus. 

The plans were first announced at a May 27 meeting of the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council’s Juvenile Justice Realignment Block Grant Ad-Hoc Subcommittee. The move drew the ire of city and county officials as the news of the plans began to circulate. City and county officials noted there had been no prior discussion with local representatives about the movement of so many juvenile and transitionally aged inmates to the area. 

Camp Joseph Scott, a previously closed youth offender camp about a quarter-mile east of David Way on the 28700 block of Bouquet Canyon Road, near the Islamic Center of Santa Clarita Valley, is part of the discussion, as well as Camp Kenyon Scudder, according to county officials. 

As the plan could move the county’s remaining juvenile offenders, ages 17-24, to the Saugus facilities, it was a point of concern for the city of Santa Clarita, which officials are scheduled to discuss at next Tuesday’s City Council meeting, according to City Manager Ken Striplin.  

The city has concerns that, due to the way the plan was announced without any input, the move may not have been merely a recommendation, Striplin said.   

“That’s definitely a concern,” he said, “and it’s also a concern that we have some body making decisions within the city of Santa Clarita that could have a significant impact, that provides zero notice and zero opportunity for the public to weigh in on it.” 

The committee that created the plan is part of a statewide realignment of the juvenile justice system created by Senate Bills 92 and 823, which ultimately call for the state’s juvenile facilities to be closed by 2023, leaving local jurisdictions to deal with incarceration of juvenile offenders.  

In the interim while the counties and state work to lessen the juvenile inmate population — as well as negotiate the transfer with related labor unions — the juveniles would be held at Camp Kilpatrick in Malibu, before ultimately being transferred to Camp Scott.   

Michelle Vega, a spokeswoman for Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office, noted the plan was created by statutorily designated members who had not notified the supervisor’s office of the specifics of the plan before it was announced. She expected to have more details about the realignment plans by August, she said. The law calls on the JJRBG subcommittee to “present its findings in a final report and a proposed JJRBG plan to the JJCC at its August 2021 meeting.” 

Vega said there would be a presentation of the final plan to the Board of Supervisors for approval in October. 

“Supervisor Barger is at this time not supportive of the placement at (Camp Joseph Scott and Camp Kenyon Scudder, both in Saugus) and she’s working with stakeholders,” Vega said.  

Due to a number of logistics still to be worked out, it’s unlikely any inmates could be transferred before 2022, Vega added. 

“It’s part of a continual (situation) where the state is putting the burden on the locals, cities and counties,” said Santa Clarita City Councilman Cameron Smyth, “by closing all of the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice facilities — and putting the onus on the counties.” 

He added that L.A. County residents have an even greater reason for concern about any potential influx of inmates due to District Attorney George Gascón’s “stance on following through with prosecution and incarceration.”  

The City Council’s meeting is scheduled 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. 

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