LVMCOG Board addresses Camp Kilpatrick decision

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

On Tuesday, March 15, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 with Supervisor Kathryn Barger dissenting, to house juvenile offenders at the Camp Kilpatrick facility, located right off of Mulholland Highway about one mile from Kanan Dume Road beginning May 1.

During the Las Virgenes-Malibu Council of Governments Board meeting, airing simultaneously as the Board of Supervisors meeting, LVMCOG President and Malibu City Councilmember Karen Farrer addressed the item and said the issue came rather quickly.

LVMCOG Executive Director Terry Dipple said the state law was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year which proposes to move those offenders to Camp Kilpatrick, which is located in the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills.

“President Farrer brought this to my attention a week ago Friday, and we began a number of meetings with the county and the ultimate question is the juvenile offenders that fall into this category are currently being held at the Barry Nidorf Center in Sylmar,” Dipple said. “So the question is whether or not the governing board wants to support President’s Farrer’s request to write a letter on behalf of the COG opposing the relocation and to further simplify matters.”

On May 14, 2020, Newsom announced that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Division of Juvenile Justice would be closing as part of the revised budget. The decision was in response to the longstanding problems associated with the state youth prison system and the need to better support youth’s rehabilitation and redefine public safety through providing age-appropriate treatment and keeping them closer to their communities and families.

“The campus was opened in July 2017 and provides a therapeutic treatment model that is youth focused,” the document states. “The grounds consist of small cottages instead of traditional open dormitory settings, classroom spaces, and a modern and bright dining facility. It has served up to 42 youth previously and is currently serving 24 youth. In light of the Probation Department’s efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, as well as other efforts to implement a small group model, capacity has been reduced to approximately 45 youth.”

Dipple said the motion is by LA County Supervisor Shelia Kuehl and Supervisor Holly Mitchell to move the juveniles to that facility. The motion was brought forward by Supervisor Kathryn Barger to keep the youth at the Barry Nidorf Juvenile Hall where they are currently being housed.

“Her [Barger] motion is to keep them at that location because it was already designed for that; it could be a safety issue,” Dipple said. “There is, however, a question of what safety risks are involved by putting more serious offenders in a facility that was not designed for that.”

Farrer said this move increases fire danger and evacuation issues. 

“This is not a debate on rehabilitative treatment versus punitive, it is about the facility and the fact that it was a facility built with low-risk offenders in mind, not high risk and the point of level of safety,” she said. “It’s not just for the communities — that’s actually probably farther down the list in my mind — it’s actually the safety of the offenders themselves from each other and the staff members.”

Farrer said during her discussions with the county, staff members have been seriously assaulted.

“I think that this plan at the minimum security facility at Camp Kilpatrick is ill-founded,” Farrer said. “I don’t think this is a good plan whatsoever. I believe Supervisors Barger’s motion makes much more sense to keep these juvenile offenders where they currently are in a facility that’s designed for them.”

Farrer brought the item to the Malibu City Council meeting on Monday and said there was no opportunity to address Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s letter, which was sent to her hours before the meeting.

Sheriff’s Lt. Joseph Fender said he has looked into the issue and reached out to the county probation department but has yet to receive a response and said he doesn’t think he will.  

“I’m going to be very honest, but I don’t know how much control or sway over the county probation department, it’s a completely different department outside of the sheriff’s department,” Fender said. “However, I do assure that regardless of where they move them it’s my job to make sure the communities are safe. I understand absolutely the concerns and frustrations, but again I don’t have any sway over probation.”

Fender said they plan for contingency and will ensure public safety. 

Malibu resident Ryan Embree said there have been notable escapes from Camp David in the past which caused concerns with being in the center of the Santa Monica Mountains and the lack of road, the captures can be a disturbing process that involves the public. 

“My concerns for the Kilpatrick location is if someone were to get out [they] would go down in elevation into Malibu, it takes a lot more effort to climb up hill, there’s nothing up their really, so they would have to come down to Malibu so they would be putting Malibu residents at risk in the whole operation,” Embree said.

District Director at Office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Tessa Charnofsky said the facility is secured and provides individualized and trauma-informed care.

“The goal is to rehabilitate these youths so they can be ready to go out into the world, so this is a different setting to where they are currently,” Charnofsky said. “The hope is to really follow the science and recognize that young people need these sorts of settings to get back on their feet and turn their lives around.” 

According to the Los Angeles Times, Kilpatrick, Scott and Kirby have campus-like environments, while Nidorf has been compared to a prison.

Supervisor Holly Mitchell said the move reflects a philosophy of rehabilitating young offenders, rather than a punishment-based system in a forbidding setting like Nidorf.

Calabasas Mayor Alicia Weintraub said the facility is not properly stable and has not been widely discussed.

“It almost seems like it’s being slipped under the radar,” ,Weintraub said. “I have a lot of concerns.”  

Board members continued to share their concerns and lack of notice prior to the meeting and are in favor of sending a letter rejecting the proposal.

Farrer mentioned Kuehl’s letter and addressed the part where it says the facility would need to be renovated and add additional security if needed.

Agoura Hills Councilmember Dennis Weber motioned to write a letter and Farrer seconded the motion, which passed unanimously. 

The next LVMCOG Board meeting is scheduled for Apr. 19.