County Agrees to Separate Arrested Adults, Juveniles

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County agreed Monday to comply on a permanent basis with a judge's preliminary injunction that juvenile arrestees be separated from adults in the booking area of the Norwalk Sheriff's Station.

The agreement settled a lawsuit filed last April as part of the Santa Monica-based Public Justice Foundation's statewide campaign to end the practice of confining juvenile offenders with adult prisoners in jails and lockup areas of police and sheriffs' stations.

That suit prompted Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jack M. Newman to rule in May that there must be complete "sight and sound" separation of juveniles and adults at the Norwalk facility.

Previously, arrested children were brought into the Norwalk station through an adult prisoner entrance, taken through an adult prisoner hallway and seated or chained to a metal rail near adult prisoners.

Newman toured the station, then ruled that the practice violated the state Welfare and Institutions Code. Deputy Los Angeles County Counsel Frederick R. Bennett said at the time he was "not terribly dissatisfied" with Newman's decision, but would appeal it to allow a higher court to "clarify" the state law.

The county had contended that the law was not violated, because juveniles were held at Norwalk less than 24 hours.

Bennett was not available late Monday to discuss the details of the settlement reported by attorney Randy Gephart of the Public Justice Foundation.

Gephart said the cases brought by the foundation prompted recent legislation, signed by Gov. George Deukmejian in September, which prohibits the use of main county jails for the detention of minors who are not being tried as adults.

The Norwalk case had been scheduled to go to trial in Superior Court on Nov. 17.

Other foundation lawsuits had brought about separation of juveniles and adults at the Lennox Sheriff's Station and the Long Beach City Jail.

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