The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to move forward with Camp Scott in Saugus as the future housing site for the county’s most violent youth offenders.
No move-in date has been established for Camp Scott due to a need for renovations at the local site, but juvenile offenders are scheduled to be moved into Camp Kilpatrick — which will house some of the violent youths — starting May 1.
The two sites will share the county’s male 18-to-25 year old population, with Camp Scott being able to house, as it presently stands, approximately 120 youths and Campus Kilpatrick housing roughly 40.
Before the item was taken up, the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday meeting was filled with accusations of miscommunication and mismanagement of the issue by local Santa Clarita residents who had called into the meeting, while proponents for the motion claimed racism and an ideology of “not in my back yard” were the driving force behind the Camp Scott opposition.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who had submitted a counter motion that was in line with a report from the L.A. County Probation Department stating that Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar was the most feasible housing location for this DJJ population, claimed her fellow members at the dais were making decisions based on opinion as opposed to fact.
Barger, referring to the report, said it would be less expensive to change the juvenile hall into a secure youth facility.
Barger then claimed that while the report her motion was based on was grounded in expert analysis, she accused her colleagues pushing for Camp Scott of not examining all the options before them and not properly utilizing the expertise of Chief Probation Officer Adolfo Gonzales.
“(The Board of Supervisors) is being asked to vote on a motion while simultaneously not being presented all available options at hand to continue the trend of cherry picking when it’s convenient,” said Barger, later adding: “Everyone on this board was a part of the hiring our probation chief, selected him and charged him with employing his expertise and making decisions about the department.”
While a number of speakers during the meeting advocated for using Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall as the future housing site for this male youth population, recidivism and rehabilitation advocates said the Sylmar location was more like “a prison” than a rehabilitative site.
“We’ve been hearing stories about Barry J. Nidorf, everything from maggots in the food, to no programming to some of the lockdowns,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn during the meeting.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who co-authored the motion to select Camp Scott alongside Supervisor Holly Mitchell, accused the opponents of calling the inmates “animals” and stated she did not support the L.A. County Probation Department issuing a report stating Nidorf would be the best facility for this population.
Kuehl added that Nidorf has always been a temporary location for youth offenders awaiting the conclusion of their case and that Camp Scott was always designed to be a long-term placement site for convicted minors.
The supervisor for District 3 went on to say that Camp Scott has an active license, single-person rooms and was the most recently closed facility throughout the county, meaning that it is not dilapidated. Furthermore, after closing in 2020, the Saugus camp is currently empty and necessary renovations can be made without impacting a housed population or site staff.
“When the research shows treatment is necessary, when all the people who had anything to do with talking about this recommended this approach. It’s the only way to go,” said Kuehl.
While emotions ran high for speakers on both sides of the issue during public comment, the supervisors themselves were not immune from becoming animated during their conversation amongst one another.
While giving her comments on the issue, Barger accused Mitchell of interrupting her to which Mitchell responded that she had not.
“You did interrupt me and no board member ever tells another board member what they can or cannot say at a board meeting,” Barger said. Mitchell, the board’s chairwoman, responded that she could interrupt a member of the dais when they were out of order.
Ultimately, Barger was the only dissenting vote and the Board of Supervisors approved moving forward with Scott and Kilpatrick as the future permanent housing sites for the male youth population and Dorothy Kirby Center in Commerce for the female population in a 4-1 vote.
In a written statement released after the vote was had, Barger reiterated a point that she had made during the meeting that Nidorf had been rejected by the Board of Supervisors despite them being legally required to remodel the juvenile hall anyway.
She also stated that it was “ironic” that Nidorf wasn’t selected because there is a chance that the Sylmar facility may still be selected to house all pre-adjudicated youth as part of a movement to close Central Juvenile Hall, doubling Nidorf’s population.
“In the days and weeks ahead, I will be vigilant,” Barger said. “I will closely review forthcoming plans to remodel Camp Scott. I’ve been clear and will continue to emphasize that it needs significant investments inside and outside, including extensive security upgrades, before it can serve any youth.”