Statement by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on the Sheriff’s Rehiring of a Fired Deputy

“I assert that there is no upside to having the Sheriff’s Department tarnished by reinstating deputies who are not fit to serve. It does not help public safety or public confidence to reverse reforms that we have worked so hard to put in place.”

Restructuring LA County’s Juvenile Justice System

 

The Board of Supervisors voted to explore moving Los Angeles County’s juvenile justice system out of the Probation Department into another agency, with the goal of creating a rehabilitative, health-focused and care-first system.

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, they called for creating a Youth Justice Work Group to make recommendations for creating a system that truly meets the needs of young people in the justice system, noting almost 90 percent of them have an open mental health case.

“Shifting towards a rehabilitative and healing model that builds on a youth’s strengths is not just ideal but necessary,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “This Board must ask itself if the structure of the Probation Department itself is limiting and even counterproductive in the pursuit of reform. If the County is to meet its obligation of adequately addressing the rehabilitative needs of the youth in its care, it must acknowledge that the juvenile camps and halls model is fundamentally flawed, and that housing supervision and services within an agency oriented toward law enforcement may be the wrong approach.”

“All the recent research on juvenile justice points to the need for a care-first approach,” Supervisor Kuehl said. “Punitive approaches have not been shown to make things any better, but rather to worsen them over time. This motion asks an inclusive group of County and community stakeholders to meet and develop guidance, along with a consultant with appropriate expertise, to think through whether this work might be moved out of the Probation Department, and, where it might better be housed. The care-first approach, if done right, can be transformational in the lives of some of our most vulnerable kids, and this motion will provide us with the thoughtful advice we need to consider our options and achieve our goal.”

The motion is consistent with one of the newly released recommendations of the Probation Reform and Implementation Team (PRIT) which, after 14 public hearings, determined the Board should “remove the Juvenile Services Division from the jurisdiction of the Probation Department, thereby separating youth and adult probation services in L.A. County.” Noting 9 out of 10 Probation youth suffer from mental health issues, the PRIT said in its report, “It is truly remiss of L.A. County not to place these youth with an agency staffed with people who are subject matter experts in mental health diagnosis, assessment, education and treatment. This shift in responsibility and care would support youth in their ongoing healthy and safe development, and best prepare them to return to their families and communities, and deter them from penetrating further into the juvenile justice system and/or entering the adult justice system. Such an approach ultimately ensures public safety.”

To date, 38 states have organized or reorganized their juvenile justice systems to be separate departments, or to fall under a health or youth development agency. Governor Gavin Newsom recently reorganized California’s Division of Juvenile Justice, transitioning it out of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and into the Department of Health and Human Services.

LA County 2nd District Probation Commissioner Jan Levine, a retired juvenile court judge and longtime volunteer at Central Juvenile Hall and probation camps, said she has both witnessed and participated in efforts to reshape the current juvenile justice system from a punitive to a rehabilitative model over the last 20 years. “Today, when I inspect our juvenile halls, I am shocked by the deterioration of staff morale, and the evidence of youth acting out through vandalism and assault – on each other as well as on staff. I live with the fear that it’s only a matter of time before someone – youth or staff – will end up severely injured or worse. I know first-hand that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of hardworking, well-meaning, dedicated Probation employees. However, I have reached the conclusion that the juvenile arm of this department, as currently structured and staffed, cannot accomplish the structural changes necessary to become a place that supports either the youth whose care it is responsible for, or the employees who are to deliver that care. For those reasons, I strongly support the Supervisor’s motion.”

“This is the right time for transformative redesign because Probation caseloads in LA County have dropped by some 50 percent or more to historic loads, and eight camps and one juvenile hall have closed,” said Patricia Suong, youth justice policy director at the nonprofit Children’s Defense Fund-California. “We can further reduce our reliance on the Probation system by imagining another system of care altogether.”

Judge Mike Nash (ret.), director of the County’s Office of Child Protection, said, “It’s important that we have a system that focuses meaningfully on serving our young people in a way that is different from adults… one that is meaningfully able to focus on the language and spirit of the Welfare Institutions Code, which mandates that we create a system that’s designed to provide care, treatment and guidance consistent with the best interests of youth and the public.”

Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo, who oversees educational services at juvenile justice facilities, said, “The LA County Office of Education already works hand-in-hand with Probation, the Department of Mental Health, and many other community organizations to better serve our students.  I think that it’s important that we take time to explore what we’re doing, to evaluate whether or not it’s working, and to think about how we may be able to improve the services that we’re providing to our children and families.”

Currently, Los Angeles County’s Probation Department has a budget of almost $1 billion and supervisory responsibility for more than 40,000 adult clients and about 8,000 youth, more than 900 of whom are in juvenile halls, probation camps, and other facilities.

Continuing the Work of Reforming the Jail System

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors hears testimony at the August 13, 2019 meeting. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

After terminating a contract to build a mental health treatment facility, the Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn to study the feasibility of demolishing Men’s Central Jail (MCJ), address its most significant maintenance needs in the meantime, and develop a forward-looking long-term strategy for reforming Los Angeles County’s criminal justice system.

The motion also directed the County’s Chief Executive Officer to reconstitute a working group to synthesize the latest research on effective criminal justice reform in order to make recommendations for replacing Men’s Central Jail. The group was also tasked with looking into whether funds from the cancelled contract could be used instead for strategies to scale up alternatives to incarceration, ensure humane treatment of incarcerated individuals, and other priorities.

“I fundamentally believe that we have an obligation to create a criminal justice system that is fair, ensures public safety and accountability, and also offers diversion when appropriate, particularly for those with clinical needs,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

Directors of the Los Angeles County Office of Diversion and Reentry and the Departments of Health Services, Mental Health, and Public Health testify at the August 13, 2019 board meeting. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

“While there may be consensus about the need to demolish Men’s Central Jail, the more important question of what should replace it, and how this will fit into our comprehensive strategy for criminal justice reform, remains unresolved,” he added. “As responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars, we need to take the time to do this right and ensure we make the most of this investment, not only in financial resources but, more importantly, in human lives.”

“Canceling the McCarthy contract was necessary, but it can’t end there. Men’s Central Jail remains a decrepit facility that needs to be demolished as soon as possible and replaced,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “Today we are moving forward with a thoughtful and deliberative approach to replacing Men’s Central Jail with a facility that more effectively and humanely treats mental illness, while at the same time expanding our diversion efforts so that people who don’t belong in jail don’t end up there in the first place.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said the Board should take advantage of several soon-to-be-released reports by experts in the field, and factor in the potential impact of pending initiatives such as bail reform.

He also called for both critiquing and building on the successes of the County’s psychiatric urgent care centers, mental evaluation teams, the sobering center – all created within the last few years; the Office of the Diversion and Reentry, whose work is being scaled up; and a first-of-its-kind behavioral health center, which will open in 2020 in what used to be the King/Drew Medical Center.

Creating an Accountable Criminal Justice System

Statement by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on the Jail Plan

“While there is consensus about demolishing Men’s Central Jail, the more important question of what should replace it, and how this would fit into our comprehensive strategy for criminal justice reform, remains unresolved. That is not surprising, since the Board of Supervisors’ thinking on that strategy is still evolving.

“Our intention to pivot away from a model that simply warehouses the mentally ill is clear. But deciding what to put in its place requires a thoughtful and deliberative approach, particularly since I am envisioning an accountable criminal justice system that guarantees public safety, diverts the mentally ill to treatment when appropriate, and holds people liable for breaking the law while providing humane treatment and rehabilitative services intended to prevent recidivism.

As we consider how to move forward, we should take advantage of several soon-to-be-released reports by experts in the field, and factor in the potential impact of pending initiatives such as bail reform. We should also build on the successes of the County’s psychiatric urgent care centers, mental evaluation teams, the sobering center – all created within the last few years; the Office of the Diversion and Reentry, whose work is being scaled up; and the MLK Behavioral Health Center, which will open in 2020. We are only beginning to realize all the benefits of those investments and still have much to learn.

“As responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars, we need to take the time to do this right and ensure we make the most of this investment, not only in financial resources but, more importantly, in human lives.”

ABC 7: Project Underway to Bring Clean Water Back to Compton and Willowbrook

By Carlos Granda
ABC 7

Residents of Compton and Willowbrook will hopefully be able to drink clear water again. That’s because the water supply will be piped in from a different source.

Nearly 7,000 customers who live in the old Sativa Water District complained for months about murky brown water with a foul odor coming from their pipes.

The work to get the area clean water has been going on for months as crews clean up the existing infrastructure. Los Angeles County, which now has control of the water district, is taking old wells offline and connecting them to a neighboring water company.

Residents in the area are very excited.

“They are working very hard with the community so that they can have clean water,” said resident Elizabeth Hicks.

The brown water was due to manganese from old pipes, but engineers say the system’s wells were also part of the problem.

They will now take the wells offline and connect to a neighboring water company.

Traces of lingering brown water could still be seen during the transition as crews flush the system out.

“We’re taking all types of mitigation measures to try to minimize that,” said the project’s lead manager, Russ Bryden. “So for example, this deep cleaning, this flushing that’s going to occur, we’re going to be doing that overnight, when people use the least amount of water so if there any is any disturbance, the hope is that it happens overnight, that we’re able to contain it.”

Bottled water will be available to residents during the transition.

Officials say the work on the water pipes should be finished by Sept. 15.

 Reposted with permission from ABC 7. 

Sativa customers are encouraged to sign up and receive project updates by phone or via text messages by visiting SativaWD.com.