LOS ANGELES—More than a dozen La Verne residents pleaded on Jan. 11 with the Board of Supervisors not to choose either of two local juvenile camps to permanently house offenders who were once in state youth prisons.
This is the second board meeting at which a significant number of residents turned out—virtually—to attempt to persuade the board it has better options for housing up to 50 youths ranging up to age 25 who committed serious enough crimes to end up in state youth facilities.
On Tuesday, they were joined by La Verne Councilwoman Robin Carder, who was among those suggesting that Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar would be the better choice.
“Our La Verne community stands strongly together on this topic. I believe that you should invest in Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall because the [Department of Juvenile Justice] youth are already there,” Carder said.
“This is the only option with the least disruption to the continuity of service and programming. … It’s a better use of our taxpayer funds.”
Other residents alleged flaws in the assessment of Camp Afflerbaugh and Camp Paige that they said covered problems with both camps, which sit within a quarter-mile of each other.
Afflerbaugh and Paige are located in a high fire hazard zone in which homeowners have trouble obtaining any fire insurance, though the county report reflects a lower risk, according to residents. There is also only one narrow access road in and out of Paige, residents say.
Others argued that La Verne is farther from the families of the minors who would be detained there than Nidorf or other facilities under consideration.
No action item was before the board, which is awaiting a recommendation from a group tasked with evaluating the county’s options.
In September 2020, state law mandated closing the Department of Juvenile Justice and making counties responsible for housing, treating, and supervising the department’s youth.
The decision about facilities lies with a Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council and its Juvenile Justice Realignment Block Grant Subcommittee, both formed explicitly to tackle this question.
The subcommittee has designated several facilities as most feasible, including camps Scott, Scudder, Paige, Afflerbaugh, and Kilpatrick. No final decision has been made, but the Probation Oversight Commission has been holding town halls to help address residents’ questions.
An earlier recommendation to renovate Camps Scott and Scudder in Santa Clarita—to allow for the kind of therapeutic, youth-focused treatment model that is employed at Camp Kilpatrick in Malibu—was met with resistance from Santa Clarita residents.
In July, the board postponed the decision on a 3-2 vote, with Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda Solis calling for further assessment.
During that meeting, Nicole Brown of the Urban Peace Institute pushed back against concerns raised by Santa Clarita residents.
“I went to the [Santa Clarita] city council meeting. This is not about environmental concerns, this is about an outdated superpredator mindset about our youth of color and their families, and it is rooted in racism,” Brown said in July.
Some Santa Clarita residents reiterated their concerns to the board Tuesday, some also focusing on Nidorf as the solution.
While addressing an unrelated motion, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl called out the residents from La Verne and Santa Clarita.
“Just as we saw with a lot of the testimony today about ‘Don’t bring those terrible young juvenile offenders into my neighborhood’ … People are much more likely to say `No, I don’t want it, don’t do it here,” Kuehl said.
“We’ve seen it with housing, we’ve seen with affordable housing, we’ve seen it with services for homeless people. I don’t say that people aren’t righteously afraid, but I think that their propensity often is to say ‘Please don’t do it anywhere near me,'” he added. “That’s the hard part, I think, of public policy: … to keep everyone around people safe but to help people get services.”
Several La Verne residents said they agreed with changing the juvenile justice system.
Some were angry at being “villainized” as NIMBYs (not in my backyard).
“That is far from the truth. City of La Verne currently has three locations that assist and accommodate these types of youth: David & Margaret (Youth and Family Services), Haynes Leroy Boys Home and, currently, the Afflerbaugh-Paige Camp, which is used for lower-level offenders,” resident Danita Beauchamp said.
“Our city has done much for the improvement of juvenile lives, and forcing the remaining 707(b), level four offenders to be housed within our city is asking the city of La Verne to carry the water for the entire Los Angeles County.”
Another resident made a more personal appeal.
“While the state and the county is reimagining the criminal justice system, what that means for the citizens of La Verne is that you are reimagining our community and our home,” one woman said.
“This camp that you are proposing to turn into a level-four prison was put in years ago, before the homes in the area were built. And at the time our home was built, we went to the facility to understand what type of juveniles, and what type of crimes they had committed, would be in our backyard. And now, what you are proposing is to change that on us.”
A representative from the County of Los Angeles Chief Executive Office said the committee is expected to make a recommendation this month and that the board would likely hear the matter in January or February.