Your article (April 6) on the federal investigation of our three juvenile halls conveys the impression that local officials are attempting to “stymie” or “obstruct” federal officials. Nothing could be further from the truth. While I obviously can’t comment on pending litigation, I would like your readers to be aware of several facts.
My department has been very cooperative from the beginning. I personally escorted the two Justice Department attorneys on a tour of the three halls last summer, at which time they were encouraged to look wherever they wanted; talk with any staff or ward; and they were provided all written material they requested. We objected to the appointment of both consultants (Ira Schwartz and Jerome Miller) because both had previously testified against Los Angeles County in court cases and their ability to be objective was a concern. Nevertheless, we were prepared to work with these consultants in an attempt to correct any deficiencies they noted.
In fact, we have been working for several years with organizations such as the National Council on Crime and Delinquency and the California Youth Authority to find ways to reduce the hall population and to ensure appropriate treatment for the minors in detention. Unfortunately, the number of juveniles committing serious crimes is increasing, and there simply are not sufficient resources available to deal with all of them in non-secure settings.
Contrary to the belief of Miller, not only do we not “sabotage” innovative alternatives, we have actively explored every idea available to reduce detention that does not have a negative impact on public safety. In fact, there is great incentive to reduce the size of juvenile institutions because their continued very costly growth in this era of diminished resources severely restricts the availability of funds to help properly supervise probationers in the community.
Finally, I believe the staffs in our juvenile halls are doing an admirable job in very trying circumstances. It is not easy to cope with the constant pressures of overpopulation, particularly with the very volatile nature of most of our wards. I frequently visit our facilities and always find staff not only to be concerned about the welfare of their wards but also doing many little extra things to make detention as safe and secure as possible.
BARRY J. NIDORF
Chief Probation Officer
Los Angeles County