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COUNTYWIDE : Allegation Dropped in Juvenile Hall Case

Civil rights lawyers who are challenging several practices in Juvenile Hall dropped another of their claims Thursday: the allegation that adolescents are wrongfully subjected to strip-searches.

Their lawsuit originally had targeted procedures in Juvenile Hall and three outlying institutions: the Youth Guidance Center in Santa Ana, the Joplin Youth Center in Trabuco Canyon and the Los Pinos forestry camp in Cleveland National Forest.

The strip-search allegation was the only one remaining against the three outlying institutions. The withdrawal of the allegation means that those three facilities are no longer targets of the case, which is in its fifth week of trial.

A range of other complaints about the three facilities, including the censorship of minors’ mail and difficulty getting access to lawyers, were dropped earlier.

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The Superior Court trial will now be limited to Juvenile Hall, focusing on such practices as tying adolescents to metal-frame beds or locking them in padded rooms when they misbehave. Mark I. Soler, an attorney for San Francisco’s Youth Law Center, said he withdrew the strip-search allegation when it became clear that Juvenile Court judges often order such searches as a condition of confinement for teen-agers serving sentences.

Attorney David G. Epstein, who represents the county, saw the dropping of the allegation as an admission that the plaintiffs would lose on the issue.

“They knew we had about 10 witnesses lined up who would testify that strip-searches are justified because contraband is often found,” he said.


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