During a public meeting held by the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council Community Advisory Committee, proponents and opponents voiced their positions on the plan to transfer all juvenile offenders to two camps in Saugus.
While the proponents saw the use of therapeutic programs and less severe structural layout of the camps as a benefit to a young person’s rehabilitation, a handful of Santa Clarita Valley community members voiced their opposition, as well as concerns over a lack of outreach prior to the plan’s proposal
If the current plan ultimately receives approval from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the county’s youth offenders — some of whom may be as old as 25, having been in custody since committing crimes as juveniles — would be relocated to Camps Scott and Scudder on Bouquet Canyon Road. The county must find a new solution for housing juvenile offenders as a result of state legislation last year that ordered the shutdown of the state’s juvenile incarceration facilities.
Brandon T. Nichols, chief deputy probation officer for Los Angeles County, said the JJCC had “made sure that everything (they) did, or to the extent (they) could do, was transparent and that (they) had accountability.”
However, a handful of the local residents who spoke about the May 26 draft plan said the plan would require a large amount of money to move the programs to the new facility.
Additionally, they said that the county would be moving people with violent tendencies to a residential area, the area was surrounded by a lot of brush prone to vegetation fires, and that there had not been adequate time to process the information.
“I also heard that your timeline is ‘ambitious,’ and ambitious is another word for reckless,” said Janet Gibson, one of the local resident speakers during the meeting. She added that she had heard one of the council’s own members say the plan was “not the best plan.”
“This is a really important thing, and putting in a plan that isn’t good is not a great idea.
“If you want to be transparent, don’t hide these meetings in this kind of forum,” Gibson added. “Do town halls in Santa Clarita, where (residents are) going to have an opportunity to actually tell you what they think.”
County Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s representative in the Santa Clarita Valley, Stephanie English, expressed her desire to see the council improve on the way in which it disperses its information. Barger and officials from the city of Santa Clarita have both said they were surprised by the decision.
Proponents for the plan said children should not be locked in cages, and said that the path forward for their rehabilitation was in treating them in a more humane manner.
“Young people are going to be released and be a part of our community, so it is very important that we focus on how we are going to support these young people in a way where they aren’t being trapped in a cycle of incarceration,” said Ezekiel Nishiyama with the Anti Recidivism Coalition. “Support their reentry. We need jobs, education, housing and, most of all, we need our own community.”
The next version of the plan is set to be presented to the Board of Supervisors in October. Supervisor Hilda Solis, who sits on both the JJCC and the county Board of Supervisors, declined The Signal’s request for comment on this story.