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2nd youth escapes from Calif. juvenile hall in 4 months, prompting call for security overhaul

In the latest incident, a group of six juveniles attacked a staff member, creating an opening for a young man to take the staff member’s keys and then scale a fence


Los Angeles County moved some 275 youths to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, pictured here, in May 2023. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Dean Musgrove/TNS

By Jason Henry
Pasadena Star-News, Calif.

PASADENA, Calif. — Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn plans to call for an investigation and a security overhaul at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall following a weekend escape, the second in just four months since the facility reopened.

In the latest incident, a group of six juveniles attacked a staff member at about 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4 , creating an opening for a young man to take the staff member’s keys and then scale a fence.

The escapee was apprehended within 10 minutes by officers from the department’s Special Enforcement Operations, the Downey and South Gate police departments, according to the Los Angeles County Probation Department.

The incident prompted Los Padrinos’ third lockdown since July. The Probation Department did not respond to a request for an update on the status of the Downey facility.

Hahn announced Monday, Nov. 6 , she will make a motion at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday directing the Probation Department to detail within the next two weeks what additional security measures and policies will be implemented to prevent future escape attempts. The motion also directs the county’s Office of the Inspector General to launch a separate investigation into the circumstances around the escape and to make its own recommendations for improvements.

“It is unacceptable that two youth have managed to escape from Los Padrinos in the last four months,” Hahn wrote in a board motion. “Luckily, they were both apprehended almost immediately after their escape, but this cannot happen again.”

Hahn’s motion states the chief probation officer and the Probation Department “must analyze the incident, determine what new security measures need to be implemented to prevent this from happening again, and implement those enhancements immediately.”

In August, probation officials said they were looking into the possibility of installing nets around the perimeter, but they indicated at the time that such a project would take until early 2024 to build.

Los Padrinos reopened in mid-July as a last-ditch effort to house nearly 300 juveniles without anywhere else to go following the state’s decision to shut down the county’s other two juvenile halls — Barry J. Nidorf and Central juvenile halls — over poor conditions.

Problems began almost immediately. Just days after reopening, the Probation Department locked down Los Padrinos after a gun was found in an office. It is illegal to bring a firearm inside a secure juvenile facility.

Then, roughly a week later on July 28 , seven youths assaulted staff members and broke through the door attached to their living area. They shattered a window to free six more juveniles. The oldest of the group then climbed the wall and escaped into an adjacent golf course before being apprehended.

That incident prompted the second lockdown and drew mutual aid from neighboring police departments. Officers surrounded the juvenile hall with their vehicles and could be seen wearing riot gear.

Inspectors from the California Board of State and Community Corrections later found the facility out of compliance in 10 different categories. The regulatory board threatened to shut down Los Padrinos, too, as a result.

The state ultimately accepted L.A. County’s plan to fix the facility and gave the Probation Department until January to implement changes. If the county is unable to follow through by the deadline, Los Padrinos could be declared “unsuitable,” a designation that would force its closure as well.

The plan hinges on the county’s ability to stabilize a seemingly insurmountable staffing crisis. A barrage of call-outs, medical leaves and no-shows have left the county below the minimum standards for staffing for more than a year.

Officials have said they will address the crisis through hundreds of new hires, by reassigning field officers and through more efficient scheduling, but, so far, the problems at Los Padrinos, in particular, have seemingly persisted.

Critics point to the continued issues at Los Padrinos and other facilities as evidence of the department’s failure and have pushed for a dramatic overhaul of the juvenile justice system as the solution. The county previously backed one such plan, Youth Justice Reimagined, but the implementation has stalled due to the need for changes to state law.


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