Saturday, May 25, 2024

Los Angeles County’s disgraceful probation department needs further scrutiny

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Say what you will about large, bureaucratic governmental organizations — and we say plenty about them — one undeniable upside is that their very size makes it very hard to get away with shenanigans.

Someone, among those within the organization who know about malfeasance, will leak. Or, as the Los Angeles County Probation Department discovered last March, someone will leave the cards on the table.

According to a new report from the Office of the Inspector General of Los Angeles County, the Probation Department on March 11 and March 12 of last year “conducted a hasty transfer of all of the approximately 140 youths housed at Central Juvenile Hall (CJH) to the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall (BJNJH). The move was precipitated by Probation Department concerns over failing to meet the California State Board of Community Corrections (BSCC) suitability requirements by a hearing date on whether required improvements had been completed.”

In other words, Probation Department brass knew that they hadn’t cleaned up their act by making changes at a miserable jail for troubled and troubling adolescents by the day they had promised to do so, and, rather than face the music, they just got all the incarcerated kids out of the place.

When the OIG folks showed up, “Office of Inspector General staff observed the presence of playing cards left on a table in one of the youth residence dayrooms evidencing that the move was abrupt.”

The report concludes “there is no plausible reason for the last minute decision other than to avoid a negative BSCC rating.” T

he mad rush “was not to the benefit of the youth and staff and was only to the benefit of the top management,” Inspector General Max Huntsman told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s why it was done, and it was inappropriate.” Once the youth got to Nidorf, violence broke out because of the poor planning that caused the rushed move.

Kudos to the investigative arm of the Board of Supervisors for making this public. It’s not an easy job, managing emotionally troubled youngsters. But trying to hide problems rather than be straightforward about them never works out for an organization.

L.A. deserves better care for incarcerated youth.

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