Long before racially charged riots in Los Angeles County’s adult jails early last month, a parallel crisis was occurring in another key part of the county’s criminal justice system, reports the Los Angeles Times. Over the last three years, the number of violent incidents at the county’s juvenile halls has jumped about 25 percent. There have been racial melees at several facilities for juveniles. Last fall, a probation camp for juvenile offenders exploded in a riot as dozens of black and Latino boys fought one another and ransacked the facility.
County leaders have failed to deal with the problems. Over the last decade, four audits, three lawsuits, and a federal investigation of the juvenile halls have documented shortcomings in the system, including understaffing, persistent violence, and a lack of performance measures. Though the U.S. Justice Department monitors the county’s three juvenile halls, neither the supervisors nor officials in the county Probation Department, which runs the facilities, has been tracking violent incidents one half of the $95-million system: a collection of 19 camps for young offenders. Juveniles remain in the halls for just a few weeks as their cases are adjudicated, but may spend months in the camps, which are supposed to rehabilitate young offenders. On any given day, there are about 2,000 teenagers in the camps and another 2,000 in the halls.