Calif. parole chief resigns to lead L.A.'s troubled juvenile halls
Guillermo Viera Rosa will join the Los Angeles Probation Department during a time of turmoil
By Maggie Angst
The Sacramento Bee
LOS ANGELES — The head of California’s adult parole division is leaving to oversee Los Angeles’s long-troubled juvenile halls and manage the nation’s largest juvenile justice system.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday night to hire Guillermo Viera Rosa as the county’s new chief strategist for juvenile operations.
Viera Rosa will join the Los Angeles Probation Department during a time of turmoil.
In early March, county leaders ousted the probation department chief, Adolfo Gonzales, following multiple investigations into mismanagement. In one inquiry, the county’s Office of Inspector General, which serves as a watchdog for the Board of Supervisors, found that the probation department hastily transferred about 140 youths from a juvenile hall in mid-March to avoid failing a state inspection.
Two weeks ago, state regulators warned the department that it could be forced to shutter the county’s two juvenile halls due to “unsuitable” conditions.
Areas of concern highlighted by the state included serious understaffing, failure to meet educational programming requirements and excessive use of force and room confinement. The issues noted by the board mirrored the findings of an investigation by the L.A. Times last year uncovering a growing use of lockdowns — isolating youths to their rooms and denying them access to programs — due to staffing crisis in the juvenile halls.
In a March 23 letter to Los Angeles Interim Probation Chief Karen Fletcher, the California Board of State and Community Corrections said a corrective action plan submitted by the county was “inadequate to address the ongoing and serious items of noncompliance.”
The board is scheduled to discuss the matter at its April 13 meeting. If it votes to close the two juvenile halls, the county will have 60 days to vacate the facilities and find new placements for the 380 or so youths under its supervision.
Overseeing California’s parole system
As the director of the state’s Division of Adult Parole, Viera Rosa was charged with overseeing the release of people from corrections facilities into supervision in the community. Parole department staff supervise and treat about 38,600 adults on parole and apprehend those who violate their parole provisions.
The state’s parole hearings have a major bearing on the length of sentences, including whether or not someone will spend the rest of their life in prison. For about 40% of people in California’s prison system, their time served is determined by the state’s parole hearings.
A January report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office flagged a pair of concerns regarding the system, including broad discretion exercised by the Board of Parole Hearings and inequitable access to effective legal and hearing preparation services for parole candidates.
The LAO anticipates the state’s daily parole population to drop 5% next year due to recent policy changes reducing the length of time people spend on parole.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, or CDCR, and Viera Rosa declined to comment about his departure. Viera Rosa will earn an annual salary of $320,000 in his new role, or more than $100,000 more than his state salary, according to public records.
CDCR has not yet announced Viera Rosa’s replacement.