Los Angeles County will once again have to figure out where to place more than 300 youths in its custody unless probation officials can make dramatic improvements to its long-troubled facilities in the next two months.

State regulators voted Thursday to find both the Los Padrinos Youth Center in Downey and the Barry J. Nidorf Youth Center in Sylmar “inadequate” after the county repeatedly failed to comply with correct problems inside, including miserable staffing and meager programming offerings.

It’s the latest embarrassment for the county in years of back and forth between Board of State and Community Correctionswhich has the power to inspect and close dangerous correctional facilities, and the county, whose youth centers have been plagued by violence and staffing problems for decades.

The vote sets the clock: The county has two months to fix all the problems highlighted by regulators or remove everyone. Los Padrinos currently houses about 280 youths, while Nidorf has about 50, according to the county’s Parole Supervision Commission.

The vote came as a surprise to many advocates, who have criticized the board for being reluctant to take strong action, and to some in the county, who expected the board to postpone the vote.

Instead, top county officials, who had come to Sacramento to argue that the department had made great progress since the last inspection, were met with exasperation and disbelief.

“I am literally speechless,” said board President Linda Penner, noting a “chasm” between the county’s positive update and the bleak picture painted by her own staff.

“Let me help you here, Los Angeles,” he continued. “If I have to decide the facts between you two, I’ll lean heavily toward what our agency does.”

The nine board members present voted to consider that the facilities are not suitable for housing youth. Two board members, Scott Budnick and Ángeles Zaragoza, had recused themselves.

The county Probation Department did not immediately respond to a question about next steps.

Nine months ago, state inspectors ordered all youth out of Central Juvenile Hall in Boyle Heights and most youth out of Nidorf after the county repeatedly failed to bring the halls into compliance with a long list of state regulations. The Nidorf youth accused of more serious crimes were left at the scene because the state had no jurisdiction over them at the time. The governor recently changed that policy in his budget.

Last year’s decision to vacate the two halls left the county scrambling to figure out where to put the 300 youths in its care. The authorities decided to reopen Los Padrinos, a juvenile center that had been closed in 2019 amid a shrinking population and growing security concerns.

Since its opening there have been fights, overdoses and an escape attempt. The department recently placed eight officers on leave after they allegedly stood by while a group of youths beat another teenager inside the hallway.

The department’s current staffing crisis persisted in the new facility. Deputy Director of Probation Kimberly Epps said Thursday that more than 1,400 probation staff members are on some type of protected leave, meaning they are not working or performing light duties, out of a total of 3,800 probation staff members. sworn personnel.

He said hundreds of employees simply don’t show up. Two people never showed up for their shift on Super Bowl Sunday, she said.

Sheila Williams, senior manager of the county executive office, emphasized that the county has been cracking down on no-shows, among other improvement efforts. She said that since October 2022, more than 590 “discipline notices” have been issued to staff who skipped shifts.

Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a statement after the meeting that she felt the department’s higher-ups were making “excuses” rather than “acknowledging the unacceptable conditions.”

“I am concerned about the future of the Probation Department and whether they are capable of making the reform we all know needs to be made,” wrote Hahn, whose district includes The Padrinos.

Supervisor Hilda Solis blamed the problems on Probation Department leaders who have “abused their authority, turned a blind eye, and created a culture that has allowed rank-and-file staff to operate with impunity.”

The county’s five supervisors had tapped Probation Director Guillermo Viera Rosa, a former member of the Board of State and Community Corrections, for the job last year, in part hoping he could help return the county to joy. of the favor of the regulatory board.

Instead, it is directly in their sights. TO petition What he did to postpone the hearing was ignored, and his argument that the agency was struggling with conflicting mandates issued by the Justice Department and the state regulatory board garnered little support.

“If I were in your shoes, I would choose to do both and figure it out,” said board member and El Dorado County Probation Director Brian Richart.

Eduardo Mundo, chairman of the county’s Parole Oversight Commission, said it was unclear where the youths will go if the county cannot fix the problems at the two facilities in the next 60 days.

Mundo emphasized that he was not speaking on behalf of the commission.

“I have mixed emotions. Where do we go from here? Everyone wants them to close, but what is the alternative? Mundo said, noting that the county’s long-term plan to stop confining youth in youth centers had not yet been implemented. “What are you doing with these children?”

By Sam