FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 25, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT CONCERNING CONDITIONS AT LOS ANGELES COUNTY JUVENILE HALLS
The Justice Department today announced a settlement agreement with Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) regarding conditions and services at the three Los Angeles County Juvenile Halls: Central, Los Padrinos, and Barry J. Nidorf. Under the agreement, the county and LACOE will improve suicide prevention, medical, as well as educational and other services.
“The state has an obligation to protect from harm juveniles in its care,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “Providing a safe environment is the first step towards creating an atmosphere in which juveniles learn to be productive and law abiding citizens. We are pleased that Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles County Office of Education share these goals for youth in their custody and that they have pledged to implement meaningful reforms.”
The Juvenile Halls house between 1,500 and 1,800 youth detained pending trial, awaiting placement in appropriate treatment facilities, and charged as adults awaiting criminal trials. Los Angeles County operates the Juvenile Halls, and the LACOE provides educational services there.
Under the agreement, the county will take several steps to protect juveniles from harm, including improving mental health services and providing housing free of suicide hazards. In addition, the county will restrict the use of chemical spray and other uses of force to appropriate circumstances, and ensure that all use of force is appropriately evaluated. The county and LACOE will also develop and implement strategies for reducing juvenile violence, including taking steps to respond to gang dynamics.
The Civil Rights Division has successfully resolved similar investigations of other juvenile justice facilities in Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, Nevada, Puerto Rico, and Saipan, and recently filed suit over similar charges against the State of Mississippi. Investigations concerning juvenile justice facilities are pending in Maryland, California, Michigan and Indiana.
Protecting the rights of institutionalized persons is a priority of the Department of Justice. Since 2001, the Civil Rights Division has opened 45 investigations impacting 52 facilities examining the terms and conditions of confinement at nursing homes, mental health facilities, residences for persons with developmental disabilities, juvenile justice facilities, and jails. These figures are nearly double the 26 such investigations initiated over the preceding three and one half years.
The text of the findings letter, the settlement agreement, and additional information about the Special Litigation Section of the Department’s Civil Rights Division can be found at www.usdoj.gov/crt/split/index.html.