The death of an 18-year-old teen at the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar, Los Angeles, has brought the safety and well-being of youth detained at LA County’s juvenile halls into sharp focus. The teen was found dead on Tuesday morning from an apparent drug overdose. The county Probation Department is cooperating with law enforcement as an investigation is conducted.
The death follows a report released in April by the Office of Inspector General that detailed at least three overdose incidents at the same facility this year. Two youths were taken to local medical facilities and/or revived by Narcan after overdosing on the synthetic opioid, Fentanyl, which was found inside the dorms and youths’ rooms.
County Supervisor Kathryn Barger has called the death “devastating and inexcusable.” The situation has prompted a push for reform of the juvenile detention system in LA County. Attorney General Rob Bonta has slammed the condition of the juvenile halls and filed court papers seeking to force the county to immediately remedy “illegal and unsafe” conditions.
The Board of Supervisors has approved a sweeping plan for reorganizing the system, including the relocation of most detainees, upgrades to facilities, and deployment of volunteer reserve deputies to help fill staffing gaps. The plan also involves the reopening of the previously shuttered Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey and the conversion of Nidorf Hall into a Secure Youth Treatment Facility.
The LA County juvenile halls have been under intense scrutiny in recent months. Nearly 300 boys and girls filed a lawsuit in 2022 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. The county CEO has warned of potential liabilities reaching $3 billion from abuse claims.
The teen’s death has brought to light the urgent need for reform and change to address the systemic issues that have plagued LA County’s juvenile detention system for decades. As investigations continue and legal action is taken, it remains to be seen how effective the proposed reforms will be in ensuring the safety and well-being of young people in the county’s care.