Detainee dies of apparent overdose in LA County juvenile hall

A detainee at a Los Angeles County juvenile hall died of an apparent overdose on Tuesday, May 9.

According to the county Probation Department, the unidentified “young adult was found dead this morning at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall” in Sylmar.

“Our nursing staff immediately administered emergency services, including the use of Narcan,” according to a statement from Guillermo Viera Rosa, chief strategist for juvenile operations for the Probation Department.

“We have notified the family and will cooperate fully with law enforcement on a thorough investigation of the incident,” the statement said. “We have also dispatched peer-support personnel and mental-health professionals to the facility for crisis counseling of youth and our staff.”

No details about the youth who died were released.

The death came on the day county attorneys were scheduled to appear in court and defend conditions at juvenile halls following allegations by state prosecutors that conditions in the facilities were “appalling.”

Last week, the county Board of Supervisors approved a sweeping plan for reorganizing the juvenile detention system. The plan included a relocation of most detainees, upgrades to most facilities and asking the Sheriff’s Department to deploy volunteer reserve deputies to help fill holes in staffing.

Last month, state Attorney General Rob Bonta slammed the condition of the juvenile halls as “appalling” and filed court papers seeking to force the county to immediately remedy “illegal and unsafe” conditions.

The Los Angeles Superior Court motion asks for an order requiring the county to comply with a 2021 judgment ordering improvements at juvenile halls, including improved staffing levels and ensuring that youth in the county’s care are taken to school and medical appointments.

A hearing on that motion was scheduled for Tuesday morning.

The Board of Supervisors was also meeting in closed session Tuesday morning to discuss that pending litigation.

Meanwhile, the state Board of State and Community Corrections has been considering possibly ordering the shutdown of the county’s juvenile halls altogether due to lack of compliance with state regulations.

A recent county inspector general report also expressed concern about the spread of fentanyl in county juvenile facilities, pointing to two recent cases of detainees being treated for possible overdoses.

Under the plan approved by the Board of Supervisors last week, the Probation Department plans to reopen the previously shuttered Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey and move all “predisposition” youth to that facility.

Central Juvenile Hall in Lincoln Heights will operate as a law enforcement intake unit and medical and diagnostic/assessment hub, while Nidorf Hall will serve solely as a Secure Youth Treatment Facility aimed at providing a more rehabilitative atmosphere for youth.

In March of last year, about 140 juvenile detainees were hastily transferred from Central Juvenile Hall to Nidorf Hall — a move that the county inspector general later concluded was orchestrated to avert a state inspection that appeared likely to fail.

Late last year, nearly 300 boys and girls filed a lawsuit alleging they were sexually assaulted, harassed and abused by county probation and detention officers while being held at juvenile facilities dating back to the 1970s. County CEO Fesia Davenport noted while releasing her recent budget proposal for the coming year that the county could potentially face liabilities reaching $3 billion from such abuse claims.

In March, the Board of Supervisors fired Probation Department Chief Adofo Gonzales, with board Chair Janice Hahn noting that the juvenile halls “are in crisis.” Karen Fletcher, the interim probation chief, told LAist on Tuesday that she plans to retire on May 19.

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