Last minute postponement of prisoner transfer at Camp Kilpatrick

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

Vocal opposition to moving felony youth offenders to Camp Kilpatrick just outside Malibu may have influenced the Los Angeles County Probation Department in a last-minute change of plans. 

The first of 150 juveniles convicted of violent crimes, including rape and murder, were to have been transferred May 1 from the county’s main juvenile detention center to the less secure facility at Camp Kilpatrick on Encinal Canyon Road in the hills above Malibu. It appears resident blowback and uncompleted security enhancements had an impact on the last-minute decision to postpone the transfers. 

Due to the state’s dissolution next year of its youth prisons under the Division of Juvenile Justice, counties are now responsible for housing and rehabilitating youth offenders, including those who remain in the system until age 25. Los Angeles County youth offenders have been held at the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar, but that facility has been deemed unfit by state regulators and others complaining of its living conditions.  

The LA County Board of Supervisors has been scrambling to find new accommodations. The board voted to move male youth offenders from the Nidorf facility to Camp Kilpatrick and Camp Scott in Santa Clarita, while female offenders would be transferred to Camp Kirby in Commerce. Santa Clarita residents filed a lawsuit against the move, and Malibu officials only learned of the plan days before the BOS was to vote. The board, including representative Sheila Kuehl, voted 4 to 1 in favor of the move to Kilpatrick.  

Malibu City Councilmember Karen Farrer who is also the president of the Las Virgenes-Malibu Council of Governments is opposed to housing violent youth offenders at the location close to Malibu. She motioned for the council to send a letter of opposition to the BOS. The LVMCOG voted unanimously in opposition, but in Malibu only Farrer and Mayor Paul Grisanti voted to send a letter to the BOS stating opposition to the increase in inmates at Camp Kilpatrick. Bruce Silverstein and Steve Uhring voted against sending a letter to the supervisors. Mikke Pierson abstained.

After the plan was postponed, Pierson explained his position to The Malibu Times. 

“I was hoping we would have some of the language for that letter instead of just voting on it without seeing the language. I would have been glad to have been part of a letter, but I wanted to see it first,” he said. “My opinion at this point is [that] I’m just cautious because I don’t know much about it. I understand it’s been a minimum-security facility. I and many people were completely caught off guard by this and had no knowledge it was coming. 

“I still don’t know what the plan is. I still don’t know if upgrades have been made to even begin to judge if this idea does make sense. I firmly believe in rehabilitation, that people can be redeemed through a proper system, but in this case, obviously, I’m going to be worried if serious offenders are suddenly located in what I understand to be a minimum-security facility right near Malibu.” 

Pierson also cleared up some misinformation reported in the Los Angeles Times on May 1 regarding a letter he reportedly received from probation officers warning him of possible security breaches that can occur at youth prisons and the dangers associated to nearby communities. If he ever received a warning letter Pierson says he does not recall it. 

“I’d love to see a copy of it,” the councilmember said. “I don’t remember that letter. If it’s a letter that came recently I have no knowledge of it at all, period.” 

Pierson did claim he gets roughly 50 pieces of mail a day. 

“If it was from a few months ago, maybe it came through and it just didn’t resonate, but I have no memory of it at all,” he said.

Camp Kilpatrick was remodeled in 2017 to house lower-risk offenders in a more therapeutic rather than punitive setting. The transfer of the more violent offenders to Kilpatrick requires an upgrade in security measures and other logistics due to the planned expansion of the camp’s population.  

Farrer previously told The Malibu Times, “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. 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.”