Our View | What Have We Learned in 94 Years?

Our View

By The Signal Editorial Board

It’s back. Like a bad horror movie, where the monster keeps returning, so is a very bad and dangerous idea on where to locate the most violent juveniles being detained by L.A. County.

We first broke the story back in May that Camp Scott and Camp Scudder in Saugus were being considered to house the most violent, convicted juvenile males being transferred from the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice to the county. The state no longer wants to take responsibility for these offenders and has transferred that responsibility to the county.

We published a series of news stories, as well as editorials outlining what a bad idea this was both for Saugus residents due to traffic and public safety concerns and for the juveniles themselves because of the location being in an extreme flood and fire hazard zone.

We urged residents to make public comment and voice their opinions with the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, and the public did just that. The supervisors postponed that decision and decided to have a look at other camps and evaluate them as to their potential suitability.

They used a scorecard evaluation process to summarize all the existing and potential juvenile holding facilities in the county.

Camp Scott and Camp Scudder — essentially next door to each other in Bouquet Canyon — received low marks for being in a fire and flood hazard zone. There is a potential for a disaster in the event of a fire or flood. It will put at risk not only the juveniles but also the probation workers and nearby residents as well.

The camps are on a narrow, winding road with only one way in and one way out. They are downstream from the Bouquet Reservoir, putting them in a potential deadly flood zone if the dam were to fail. Evacuations, particularly for a large, incarcerated population, would be very difficult as the county report says the camps would be under 26 feet of water in less than an hour not leaving nearly enough time to evacuate the camp’s inmates and complicating the evacuation process for nearby residents.

The report showed there are other camps that are more suitable to be the permanent “secure youth treatment facility,” as the county calls it. 

Camp Kilpatrick in Malibu received a $45 million upgrade and renovation in 2017 and the Probation Department has recommended the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar as the best place to be the SYTF. This is the facility the juveniles are housed at while they are going through the system waiting for trial, so they are already there. It’s the least disruptive, most cost-effective choice.

After all of this, we learned on Wednesday that L.A. County Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Sheila Kuehl are making a motion at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting that could lead to Camp Scott in Saugus becoming the permanent facility to house these violent offenders.

The irony is this vote will come three days and 94 years after the anniversary of the St. Francis Dam disaster, which killed an estimated 450 people when the dam burst, just a few miles away from Camp Scott.

In a last-minute development, we have learned that Supervisor Kathryn Barger will be proposing an alternative motion supporting the Probation Department’s recommendation of the Nidorf Juvenile Hall as the permanent secure youth treatment facility. 

We urge you to make your voices heard one more time on Tuesday. Tell the supervisors that Camp Scott is not where the juveniles should be housed. Ask the supervisors if they have learned anything from history. Are they willing to risk the lives of all the inmates and probation workers in the case of a flood? 

Let’s hope history does not repeat itself.

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