L.A. Now

Officials back effort to save popular probation camp sports program

County officials said Tuesday that they want to continue a popular sports program at one of the county's juvenile probation camps that had been in jeopardy of shutting down because of a camp modernization.

Camp Kilpatrick in Malibu is the only juvenile correctional facility in the state with sports teams that compete against public and private schools in the California Interscholastic Federation. It was the inspiration for the 2006 feature film "Gridiron Gang."

The aging camp compound will be torn down, beginning this month. Under a new design, young offenders will be housed and go to classes and treatment programs in small groups, which probation officials and community advocates believe will lead to better outcomes.

But supporters of the sports program fear it will be shut down -- or at least interrupted.

Probation Chief Jerry Powers told the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that he wants to continue the program. But he said the department needs to make some adjustments.

A study of the outcomes of the sports program is underway. Powers said preliminary results showed that the youths who played on sports teams at Kilpatrick had fewer disciplinary issues while in camp than those who did not participat, and were more likely to get early release.

But the study also found that those involved in the sports program were 15% more likely to commit another crime in the year after their release. Powers said he believes the problem is "fixable" but needs more study.

Coaches -- all deputy probation officers -- and former participants in the program urged the board Tuesday to find a way to continue it uninterrupted.

"We're probation officers," coach Tuwan Rider said. "We're also father figures to many of these young men."

At the request of board Chairman Don Knabe, the supervisors voted unanimously to ask Powers to report back next week on the feasibility of keeping the sports program going at the adjacent Camp Miller or one of the other camps until the study is completed.


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