The L.A. County Board of Supervisors formally authorized Tuesday a $50 million grant allocation from the state for the next fiscal year to fund the next steps in a plan to realign its criminal justice system for juvenile offenders.
While the county’s agenda item doesn’t specifically mention Camp Scott or Camp Scudder, two currently closed juvenile camps in Saugus, the Juvenile Justice Realignment Block Grant Committee is expected to make Camp Scott a home for female juvenile offenders.
The county also appears to be planning to keep the facility’s counterpart for boys down the road, Camp Scudder — which has been closed since 2019 due to structural concerns — shuttered.
On Tuesday, the juvenile justice committee also asked supervisors to fund the construction work necessary to retrofit the juvenile facilities not subject to the state’s environmental standards, the California Environmental Quality Act, which involves costly and often lengthy studies to determine how a project will impact its surroundings. (Senate Bill 823, which was signed into law in September 2020, essentially dissolved the state’s juvenile justice system and moved its juvenile inmates into counties’ custody under a plan called realignment.)
This exemption from the state’s standards was a point of contention with the city of Santa Clarita in a lawsuit it had filed with the county over its juvenile justice plans. Initially, the Probation Department, which has oversight for the facilities, planned to move all serious juvenile male offenders to Camp Scott, which would have required tens of millions of dollars in renovations, according to a previous study.
That decision prompted the city to file an injunction seeking to stop all work on the site in November.
As early as last year, Supervisor Kathryn Barger had advocated for the Sylmar facility, known as Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall, be used to house the male juvenile offenders. That facility is much more secure and ultimately ended up being where those offenders will be sent.
A local government liaison who’s been following the situation for City Hall noted Tuesday that the county’s previous announcement regarding plans for Camp Scott was encouraging, but he also confirmed the city has not yet dropped its lawsuit against the Probation Department, which oversees the plans for the juvenile facilities.
“(The March 21 announcement about Camp Scott) was definitely good news for everyone who’s been following this issue,” said Masis Hagobian, Santa Clarita intergovernmental relations officer, referring to the county’s decision to permanently house its most serious male offenders in Sylmar. He added the city does not have an upcoming hearing date scheduled for that lawsuit at this time.
“Given the most recent approval by the Board of Supervisors,” Hagobian added, “the city is considering different factors as it relates to the active litigation filed by the city against the county.”
Tuesday’s item on the county agenda explains the new approach for the county’s juvenile justice system:
“The plan being submitted for your board’s approval includes: reliance on multi-disciplinary case planning; delivering programs focused on healing and youth development; providing a more therapeutic, home-like environment/small group model; placing male youth temporarily at Campus Vernon Kilpatrick (CVK) and Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall (BJNJH), pending the identification of a permanent site(s) and completion of applicable renovations, and conclusion of ongoing collaboration with labor partners.”
The grant funding is expected to pay for “the mental health, sex offender treatment, or related behavioral or trauma-based needs of the target population; support programs or services that promote healthy adolescent development; family engagement in programs: reentry, including planning and linkages to support employment, housing, continuing education, and evidence-based, promising, trauma-informed and culturally responsive services.”