Budget Cuts May Close Juvenile Camps

Times Staff Writer

Told to cut $32.9 million from his $200-million budget request for fiscal 1989-90, Los Angeles County Chief Probation Officer Barry Nidorf has proposed shutting 14 of the county’s 15 juvenile detention camps.

Such a move would free 3,000 young offenders a year or put them into the county’s overcrowded Juvenile Halls, where 600 youngsters are already sleeping on the floor, or into California Youth Authority facilities.

Nidorf said Monday that he was “forced into this move very, very reluctantly” because it is the department’s only large program not required by state or federal law.

“For Joe Taxpayer, it is far more expeditious to keep the kids in camp than to send them to the state Youth Authority. We are far less expensive. We keep them a far shorter time, and our outcome is better.”

Nidorf said judges and lawyers already have expressed strong objections to the proposed closures. More than 100 of the camps’ teachers have been notified that they will be laid off this summer.


Because the Board of Supervisors has final say over how the county’s budget is divided, it is almost certain that juvenile justice advocates and others will seek to save the camps before the board acts.

Juvenile detention camps, pioneered here in the 1930s, are the last stop for 13-to-18-year-old offenders, many of whom have committed drug-related crimes or burglary or robbery, before they are sent to state facilities.

Nidorf said inmates remain in the camps an average of 22 weeks, compared to 22 months for state CYA facilities. He said recidivism in the camps is much lower.

Closing the camps and halting work on four half-completed new camps in the Lancaster area, Nidorf said, would save his department $20 million. But he said that closing all camps in the state--Los Angeles County has half of them--could cost the CYA an additional $110 million.

If neither the supervisors nor the Legislature provides money for the camps, Nidorf said, they will be phased out over a 90-day period after adoption of the county budget.

Because the county camps relieve state facilities, Nidorf said, the state has provided up to half their funding. But the state has budgeted nothing for the camps for the coming year.