Supes to consider plan to move violent youth offenders to Santa Clarita

Sign on Bouquet Canyon Road for Camp Scudder and Camp Scott. 062421. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is scheduled Tuesday to consider supporting the creation of a permanent juvenile detention facility at Camp Joseph Scott or Camp Kenyon Scudder, which are both in Saugus. 

If approved, the board motion – submitted by county Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Sheila Kuehl –would have the county adopt a state subcommittee’s recommendations to move violent youth offenders to the Santa Clarita facilities, which were originally designed to host non-violent youth offenders. 

The motion directs the county to “ensure that the appropriate renovations are made at Scott or Scudder within 90 days to be safe and ready for use,” while male youth sentenced after July 1, 2021, are temporarily housed at county-run Campus Kilpatrick in Malibu and female youth are housed at county-run Dorothy Kirby Center in Commerce. 

The Saugus facilities would need to align with the vision of Youth Justice Reimagined – a set of recommendations made by the county’s Youth Justice Work Group to reimagine a county justice system that “centers on youth development and wellbeing.” 

Community concerns around the selection of these local sites have grown since June, when the community learned of the subcommittee’s decision, first announced May 27. 

Santa Clarita Mayor Bill Miranda and members of the Santa Clarita City Council voted last month to send a letter formally opposing the plan following several public comments at a recent City Council meeting where Santa Clarita residents voiced their opposition, citing impacts on public safety, property values and traffic in Bouquet Canyon. 

“It’s just reckless and hasty to say the least,” Miranda told The Signal of the decision to use Camps Scott and Scudder. “The subcommittee which made this recommendation has not even spent any time talking with our community. In addition, no outreach or communication regarding this plan has been made to the city, or to myself or to any of my fellow council members.” 

The city also called on residents “to reach out to the Board of Supervisors and their justice deputies if you have concerns about having violent offenders located near homes in an area that is prone to wildfires and floods.” 

The city’s posts were published shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday on both Facebook and Twitter and list the contact information for the supervisors’ offices. 

Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents Santa Clarita and north Los Angeles County, has also expressed concerns. 

“The supervisor wants to make sure that the community has the opportunity for input, that she has the opportunity to provide input (and) that this is a transparent process” said Michelle Vega, a spokeswoman for Barger. 

Vega said the motion, if it passes, would not impact the Saugus camps in unincorporated Los Angeles in the current fiscal year, which started last week. She said the next report on the issue is due in January. 

“Supervisor Barger is hoping to have (the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council’s Community Advisory Committee) have in-person community meetings,” Vega said, noting that Barger will encourage fellow supervisors to support holding community meetings. 

Vega said Barger also plans to ask that the JJCC “assess and report back to the board pretty quickly on the other camps that weren’t assessed.” 

Camp Munz-Mendenhall in Lake Hughes, Holton Conservation Camp in Sylmar and the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall, also in Sylmar, where the county currently houses youth in the state’s care who are awaiting trial, are potential alternatives to Scott and Scudder, according to Vega. 

A statewide realignment of the juvenile justice system resulting from Senate Bills 92 and 823 prompted the creation of the state subcommittee and called for the state’s juvenile facilities to be closed by 2023. The decision means local jurisdictions will become responsible for housing youth offenders who previously would have been in state custody.   

For now, incarcerated youth in Los Angeles County will remain at the temporary facilities until after the county completes renovations at the Saugus camps, creating a small group model environment. 

Last month, a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department report found that Camp Scott and Camp Scudder need major security improvements to accommodate violent youth offenders. 

The board will also consider Tuesday a $722,000 project at Camp Scott to improve vehicular access by replacing existing guardrails and extending the guardrail system and installing new lights to increase visibility.  

Jon Hatami, a Santa Clarita Valley resident and a deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County, called on county supervisors to “take a stand for what’s right and fair” in a statement to The Signal. 

“The safety of children and families is still important. The community has a right to be heard. We all have a right to make sure any facility housing murderers and rapists is safe for the people working inside the facility and the families living outside the facility,” Hatami said in a prepared statement. 

Hatami called out Supervisors Mitchell and Kuehl for proposing to adopt the state subcommittee’s recommendation, saying the supervisors “don’t live in or govern our community” and that they did not consult with “Santa Clarita residents, homeowners, families, law enforcement or the city.” 

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