L.A. County moves to create new juvenile justice system focused on ‘care,’ not punishment

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A new arrival at Camp Kenyon Scudder has her handcuffs removed at the girls detention center in 2013. The camp is implementing a new health screening program that is trying to address the problems females might face coming into L.A. County’s juvenile justice system and flag girls who might need additional help.(Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times)

A new arrival at Camp Kenyon Scudder has her handcuffs removed at the girls detention center in 2013. The camp is implementing a new health screening program that is trying to address the problems females might face coming into L.A. County’s juvenile justice system and flag girls who might need additional help.(Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times)

After years of incremental reform, Los Angeles County is moving to dismantle the largest youth justice system in the country in favor of a “care-first” model that would look less like prison and would emphasize emotional support, counseling and treatment.

The plan calls for children and young adults who have committed crimes to be served in home-like settings, and includes 24/7 youth centers and support teams that establish relationships with young people who might otherwise be locked in facilities far from home.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday took the first steps to transition juvenile probation to a proposed new Department of Youth Development, in a three-phase approach that will take at least five years. Similar approaches have been tried in San Francisco; Houston; New York City; King County, Wash.; and Oregon.

Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas said in their motion that, despite the board’s best efforts to reform a system plagued by controversy and abuse investigations, it has become clear a new approach is required.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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