The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday reviewed a package of resolutions designed to look at misconduct and problems within the Probation Department and begin implentation of changes. The elected officials are expected to take a final vote at next week’s meeting.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who voted for the resolutions, wants to go farther and has called for the United States Department of Justice to step in and take a look at the department, which has been long-riddled with allegations of misconduct and negligence, and make recommendations.

Ridley-Thomas spent this week taking first-hand looks at some of the juvenile facilities under the jurisdiction of the probation department, and that strengthened his belief that the federal government needs to be called.

“Some of the things I learned in terms of our obligation to educate young people, juveniles in our care and custody was that every teacher at Rocky happened do be a substitute,” noted the supervisor about his visit to one of the juvenile facilities on Monday. “I don’t know how often that takes place. But all I know is when you have a sub, as important as they are at filling in the gaps, it represents a certain level of discontinuity of learning.”

The supervisor said the young people also talked about the quality of food and other challenges.
Ridley-Thomas noted that this was his third visit to the juvenile facilities this year, and is part of his intent to get a first-hand look.

According to county officials, there are about 18,000 juveniles and about 70,000 adults under the jurisdiction of the Probation Department.

Ridley-Thomas said the board is anticipating a report from Cal Remington, former acting chief of probation, and feels once that is in hand, they will have clearer picture of the problems and potential solutions.

Meanwhile, among the resolutions approved by the board are one that gives the newly installed Chief of Probation flexibility including the ability to hire outside consultants to help make changes. Another resolution imitates an investigation into cases of recent employee arrests and misconduct and report on the results of these actions, as well as to looking into employees who failed to behave appropriately.

The actions being taken by the board of supervisors coincide with concerns that an Antelope Valley group expressed during a press conference yesterday.

Residents and activists of the Antelope Valley gathered in front of the Michael Antonovich Antelope Valley Courthouse on to urge the Probation Department to renovate the system.

Emmitt Murrell, Pharaoh Mitchell, and Rev. Jesse Smith of The Community Action League (TCAL), along with members of the Nation of Islam and other community members have offered their time, experience, and a plan to turn the system around.

“Some young men and women are supposed to be incarcerated and have done some atrocious things to one another, their peers, as well as their elders,” Murrell said. “But I have seen and I am a product of that; there are those that can only be benefited, if they ever get the opportunity to apply the skills that generally come with proper assessment and the proper training and tools.”
He suggests making probation camps places of learning and enrichment for incarcerated youth, creating an atmosphere of learning and achievement will help nurture troubled youth and ultimately benefit the community by producing productive citizens.

By working arm in arm with the Department of Probation, TCAL and community supporters hope to transform a historically failing system.

Murrell recognizes this has been an issue for decades, and hopes that this time the higher-ups will listen to the community’s suggestions.

“If the department is as sincere as they claim they are about weeding our the rogue probation officers … if they are anxious to see equity in the way that these kids are handled, then I think we will be able to meet them at the medium,” Murrell explained.

Cynthia Harper, a representative of the Department of Corrections in Lancaster says the department plans to work with TCAL and other community organizations because “it is very, very important that our children get the right type of treatment and the right to be educated in every facet of life.”