City upset over state plan to move juvenile offenders to Saugus

Attendees listen to speakers during the first in-person City of Santa Clarita City Council meeting on Tuesday since COVID-19 shut down in-person meetings last year. 062221. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Santa Clarita City Council voted Tuesday to oppose a state-appointed committee’s decision to move juvenile offenders to Camp Joseph Scott and Camp Kenyon Scudder in Saugus. 

Council members directed city staff to draft a letter expressing the city’s position to the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council’s Juvenile Justice Realignment Block Grant Ad-Hoc Subcommittee, which announced its plans in late May to move juvenile offenders to the two facilities. 

“This is not the way government is supposed to work,” said Mayor Bill Miranda. “We’re supposed to be informed. We’re supposed to be involved. We’re supposed to be part of the decision-making.” 

Miranda said he was in agreement with Stephanie English, a representative for county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who said Barger is committed to both justice reform and the rights of victims. 

“These goals are not mutually exclusive,” said English, noting that Barger opposes the JJRBG subcommittee’s selected locations. “She will be offering a motion that will go before the board … on July 13 … that will invite the board, and the subcommittee to … look at this issue again, because we have time to look at it, and reinvestigate what opportunities are.” 

The city’s letter will also express the desire to work with Barger to find alternatives to the current proposal of relocating juvenile offenders to the Saugus camps, invite the JJRBG subcommittee to tour the sites and request the committee hold a public hearing in Santa Clarita. 

City Council members also empathized with a group of young people who served time in the juvenile justice system and addressed council members Tuesday night. 

“I feel your pain,” said Miranda, commending Sam Lewis, the executive director of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), which organized the group of formerly incarcerated youth to share their stories with the Santa Clarita community. 

Lewis, a Santa Clarita resident, told council members that many of the young people he serves never had a first chance. 

“We come out of communities that are under-resourced, schools that are horrible and abusive households — and then they make horrible choices. And then what do we do as a society? We throw them away,” said Lewis, who was in prison for 25 years. “Justice includes how we treat people once they’re incarcerated.” 

Karen Whitman, a Saugus resident and a member of the law enforcement community, told the City Council and room of close to a 100 people that she agrees that the juvenile system doesn’t seem to work. 

“But that’s not the issue that we have before us here. The issue that I want to bring to our attention is that this has been thrust upon us, without any comment or public discussion. And I don’t think that that is fair,” Whitman said. 

Some residents also shared concerns about safety and the impact the facilities might have on property values. 

Jose Norrington, a formerly incarcerated youth who is a part of the ARC, asked to the Santa Clarita community to exercise love. 

“Please remember that children are children, not monsters,” he said, pointing to the words “in God we trust” located about the council’s dais. “God is love. Let that love guide.” 

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