JOIN US IN PUSHING FOR REAL POWER IN COMMUNITY OVERSIGHT OF THE PROBATION DEPARTMENT:
1. Attend Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ Hearing – 9:30AM, 2/2/16 @ Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 West Temple, near the corner of Grand in Downtown LA, 90012
2. Tell LA what you want in a new Probation Chief.
Take a few minutes to tell us HOW the new chief should be selected and WHAT they should work on:
3. If you haven’t already done so, sign on to the letter urging the Board to push forward on community oversight – starting with community involvement n the recruitment and selection of the next Probation Chief. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your group’s/organization’s logo, and the name and title of the person to rep on the the letter by Monday, 2/1/16 by noon.
OVER THE PAST DECADE, LA COUNTY HAS HAD SIX PROBATION CHIEFS AND TWO INTERIM CHIEFS. LA COUNTY PROBATION HAS BEEN NOTORIOUS:
1. For treating youth, families and community based organizations as incompetent and unnecessary;
2. For locking up more youth than any other jurisdiction in the world and maintaining unfair practices that lead to disproportionate contact for youth of color;
3. For maintaining juvenile halls and camps that are run down and inhumane – including continued use of solitary confinement and room isolation; as well as for
4. Taking money intended for community- based alternatives to incarceration and re-entry services, and spending it instead on expanding Probation staff – even most recently planning a move of $21 million in state Juvenile Justice Community Partnership Act funds for community programs to pay for Probation officers in junior high schools to work as “counselors” with youth who haven’t even been arrested yet!
FOR ALL THESE REASONS AND MANY MORE, ENDORSE THE LETTER BELOW!
RESPOND EMAIL ACTION@YOUTH4JUSTICE.ORG BY NOON ON MONDAY, FEBRUARY 1 WITH YOUR ORGANIZATION NAME, YOUR LOGO, AND THE NAME OF AN ORG REPRESENTATIVE AND THEIR TITLE.
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration
500 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Re: Motion for Oversight of County Probation Department
Honorable Member of the Board of Supervisors:
We strongly support the motion by Supervisors Kuehl and Ridley-Thomas to evaluate the feasibility of establishing a permanent Probation Oversight Commission that provides for comprehensive and seamless oversight with appropriate access to information necessary for effective oversight. However, we also urge the Board to ensure community involvement in the recruitment, candidate review and selection of the new Chief, as well as community involvement in the prioritization of the future vision and work of the Probation Chief, in order to make Probation Oversight real.
The need for the motion calling for Probation Oversight is obvious, as demonstrated by the long list of Probation Chiefs over the last decade, numerous scandals involving probation officers in the youth camps, investigations by the federal and state Departments of Justice of youth camps and juvenile halls, lawsuits involving the failure to even minimally decent education for youth at Camp Challenger, and reports on the failure by Probation to distribute at least $140 Million in AB109, and at least $21 Million on JJCPA funds for community and faith-based organizations’ re-entry, reunification and diversion programs.
These problems reflect an alarming and long-standing crisis at the Department of Probation, as well as the reality that a diffuse, uncoordinated and confusing patchwork of oversight by multiple bodies is far less effective than a comprehensive and seamless system of accountability. Most important, the lives of LA’s most vulnerable residents hang in the balance. We must begin to hold LA County Probation accountable to the highest standards for trauma informed care, transformative justice and successful healing and reunification of system-involved people with their families and communities.
After all, LA County has the largest Probation Department in the world, with the world’s largest juvenile hall and youth prison (camp) system, and over decades, hundreds of thousands of youth and adults have suffered within our system, and too often failed to thrive or even survive afterward.
All of this points to the urgent need for the passage of this motion.
However, we also feel strongly that improved oversight will not make a significant difference unless the County hires the right Chief – one who will lead the Department in a dramatically different direction. The scandals, mismanagement, and failure to allocate millions of dollars intended for the community are clear evidence of the routine failure of numerous Probation administrators to provide a clear vision, inspiring leadership, moral integrity, strong management, or sincere partnership with youth, families and communities.
The essential criteria for the new Chief must include a willingness and a proven ability to change the culture of the department from a law enforcement/violations and punishment-based approach to one that is focused on youth and community development, intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry. Furthermore, LA’s Probation Chief can no longer be allowed to work against the community, excluding LA’s greatest talent, generosity and wisdom from improving the system and uplifting the people under its custody.
The failure of Probation to allocate funds to community and faith-based organizations for diversion and re-entry services is not merely a failure of competence; it reflects a departmental culture that puts minimal emphasis on rehabilitation and prevention, and is unwilling to partner with the community organizations that often-times provide the most cost-effective and highest quality services that are essential to help people exit the criminal and juvenile systems and lead productive lives.
At a recent conference organized by National Council on Crime & Delinquency on the redesign of the Los Angeles County Probation camps, there was a panel made up of a number of people who had experienced the halls and camps, as well as guardians of young people who had been in Probation custody. When asked by a manager in the Probation Department to identify how probation employees had supported them to succeed, not one panel member could identify a single example. The only positive experiences anyone could point to were from community based providers who were working in the camps or courts. In contrast, all the panel members were able to identify multiple examples of probation employees’ humiliating them and treating them like “career criminals” who would certainly return to either the halls or camps, or end up in jail or prison in the future.
Until the culture and quality of the Department changes, our County will continue to harm people entrusted to its care, and ensure that far too many people on Probation will continue to graduate from county lock-ups to state prisons, or from cells to homelessness, addiction or even early death.
Effective oversight can help remedy crises when they occur. But, the prevention of systemic failures, full implementation of any oversight recommendations, and future excellence in staffing, programming, community partnerships and fiscal oversight can not be achieved without having the right person in charge of an agency that has been poorly run for decades and is crippled by a counterproductive law enforcement vision of what Probation should be.
Please sign your organization rep and send a logo for your organization. Thank you!!!