DOWNTOWN LA — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors discussed the juvenile halls, hotel workers protections, and a new regional committee on homelessness at their regular meeting Tuesday. 

At the July 25 Supervisors’ meeting, protesters shutdown Kenneth Hahn Hall, demanding protections for youth detained at juvenile camps; this week, several department heads gave an update on actions their departments are taking to prevent drugs from entering the juvenile halls, and general conditions. And as workers across the region protest for livable wages and better working conditions, the Board voted to begin work on an hotel worker protections ordinance. Lastly, the Board voted 4–0 to establish a regional committee to address the homelessness crisis in the county. Supervisor Holly Mitchell (Second District) was absent.

Update on youth probation camps

The Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) — a state level entity responsible for maintaining the standards at jails and juvenile halls — ruled in May that conditions at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall and Central Juvenile Hall were unsuitable for minors. The ruling forced the closures of the two facilities, and the vast majority of the youth were transferred out by July.

So far this year four youths have overdosed at local juvenile halls, with one overdose resulting in the death of 18-year-old Bryan Diaz of Wilmington. With the closures of the two halls, about 300 youths have been moved to the newly remodeled Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey. But, just days after reopening, Los Padrinos has been put into lockdown twice: once as the result of a loose gun being found in the facility, and once after a fight between youth and staff, as reported by LAist.

Members of anti-carceral organizations such as Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) and the Re-Imagine LA Coalition, have continuously shown up at the supervisors’ meetings demanding the county ameliorate conditions at the halls, and stop placing youth in harm’s way. At Tuesday’s meeting, about a dozen personnel from various county departments including the Department of Youth Development, Probation Department, and LA County Office of Education gave verbal updates about what their respective departments are doing to address overdoses and the flow of drugs in the juvenile halls.

One of the ways the Probation Department, which oversees the juvenile halls, plans on reducing inflow of drugs is implementing new technology, according to Eric Strong, chief safety and security officer. The department is upgrading their metal detectors and ordering ultraviolet flashlights that he says will help detect “narcotics.”

Chair Janice Hahn (Fourth District) asked the department heads whether they have the technology to identify small amounts of substances such as fentanyl being snuck into a facility.

“The honest answer is no,” said Strong.

A visibly disappointed Hahn then responded emphasizing the need for coming up with new strategies to stop the inflow of substances. She suggested searching every single person who goes into the facilities, including visitors and staff.

Another major focus is staffing, said Strong. The Probation Department has doubled security staffing, updated training for entry security personnel, and implemented perimeter checks around the facilities.

“Preventing the drugs from getting in is the first step,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger (Fifth District). “But we need to focus on the programming.”

Scott Sanders, senior probation director, says the Probation Department is working on creating a substance abuse unit to provide youth overdose and mental health treatment. A behavioral healthcare nonprofit, the Tarzana Treatment Center, will provide staffing.

Hotel workers protection ordinance

Hundreds of hotel workers are striking and rallying across the county demanding higher wages and better working conditions. In response, the Board directed its attorneys to begin drafting a hotel workers ordinance which would apply to unincorporated areas of the county.  

At the meeting, the supervisors listed off protections they’d like included in the ordinance such as: mandating hotels provide personal security devices to employees working in guest rooms by themselves; prohibiting hotel employers from retaliating against employees who report violent incidents to law enforcement; and forbidding overtime without workers’ consent.

“The success of the hotel industry depends on the hard work of hotel workers,” Unite Here Local 11 member, Raul Macías, said in Spanish. Macías has worked in the hotel industry for 25 years. 

Establishing a regional committee for homelessness

The supervisors voted 4 to 0 to create an executive committee made up of high ranking officials with the goal of developing a regional plan that addresses homelessness across the county. This new committee is supposed to bridge communication between the 88 cities in the county and many existing departments, agencies, and commissions created to address homelessness.

“This is unique in the standpoint that it actually is regional,” said Barger, who co-sponsored the motion.   

The executive committee will consist of two supervisors, the mayor of LA, the LA City Council president, four mayors or city councilmembers from other cities selected by the LA County City Selection Committee (which is not technically part of the county bureaucracy), and a representative appointed by the governor. However, the committee will not have new powers, instead the motion specified that the committee would “implement the committee’s decisions to the extent of each member’s existing authority.” 

The executive committee would work with an advisory body — called the leadership table — who will focus on educating the public on the issue of homelessness and allocate private funding in support of the plan. The advisory body will include Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA), department heads from a county or city homeless initiative, people who have experiences being unhoused, and members of academia.

Ashley Orona is a journalist and community organizer from South Central Los Angeles. She loves spending time with her family, supporting local businesses, and finding new scenic views around LA.