Juvenile prisoners to be housed at facility in Malibu hills

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The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted to house juvenile offenders at the Camp Kilpatrick facility near Malibu. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

Juvenile offenders, some deemed “violent,” will start being housed at Camp Kilpatrick located in the hills above Malibu beginning May 1. Despite pushback from Malibu residents, City Councilperson Karen Farrer and the Las Virgenes-Malibu Council of Governments, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted last week to relocate the offenders, ages 14 through 25, due to the impending closure of California’s Division of Juvenile Justice. Under Senate Bill 92, counties will now be tasked with the burden of housing and rehabilitating youth offenders. 

LACO youth who would have been sent to the DJJ would have been held at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar; however, that facility was deemed by state regulators as “unsuitable for the confinement of youth” with deplorable conditions. When the BOS considered moving inmates to Santa Clarita, residents there were vocal about relocating young men to their community who have been convicted of violent assaults and murder. That’s when Kilpatrick was considered as a site.

Doug Stewart, vice chairman of Malibu’s Public Safety Commission, called it a “stealth move” on the part of the BOS and claims that plans to house more inmates at Camp Kilpatrick has been in the works since mid-2021. Farrer said she first got wind of the plan at the beginning of March and motioned the City Council to send a letter in opposition to the BOS. On March 14, her motion failed to pass. She and Paul Grisanti voted in favor, with Bruce Silverstein and Steve Uhring voting against, and Mikke Pierson abstaining. 

Without a city letter in opposition to the BOS plan, Farrer, who also serves as the president of LVMCOG, brought the issue before the organization that represents the nearby municipalities of Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Westlake Village, Agoura Hills and Malibu.

“The COG voted unanimously to communicate with the County that we were against this,” she said.

Farrer questions relocating felony youth offenders to the facility on Encinal Canyon Road in unincorporated Los Angeles County between Malibu and Westlake Village. “This is not a debate on the merits of rehabilitative treatment versus punitive of juvenile offenders. The issue keeps getting clouded with that debate on how best to treat juvenile offenders. That is not the issue,” Farrer said. “The issue is why are juvenile offenders being relocated in haste to a facility that was not designed or built for their high-security needs. It’s not just about the surrounding communities. It’s about the juvenile offenders themselves being safe from each other and about the staff being safe.” 

In her argument, Farrer referenced the 2021 beating death of a youth counselor at a Los Angeles therapeutic detention center. 

The LA County Probation Department describes Camp Kilpatrick as “a small-group treatment model that is youth-centered and embodies a culture of care rather than a culture of control.” Now, with the addition of 40 male serious youth offenders moving in with Kilpatrick’s current lower-risk inhabitants, Farrer calls the planned retrofitting of the facility a “huge question.” Probation Department employees have described some of the youth under detention as having “serious mental health and behavior issues.” 

The LVMCOG favored a plan by Supervisor Kathryn Barger to renovate the Nidorf detention center, where youth in the system spend most of their time while in pre- and post-adjudication status.

Sheila Kuehl, Malibu’s representative on the BOS, dismissed safety concerns, writing in a letter styled as an “open letter” to Malibu residents, but delivered only to the LVMCOG, that “officials were working with architects on renovations and whether extra security would be needed under the new system. 

“Camp Kilpatrick is the county’s newest juvenile site, and its design and programs within take into account the latest scientific research and best practices that, while being within a locked facility, are geared toward healing and building skills so that coming out can be productive in society,” Kuehl’s letter continued.

The county’s plan calls for male offenders to be rehoused at Camp Kilpatrick and Camp Scott in Santa Clarita. Female offenders are to be moved to Camp Kirby in Commerce.

“The city did not go on record with any opinion on having Camp Kilpatrick house juvenile offenders requiring the highest level of security,” Farrer said. “That facility was not built for this purpose.”