A group of boys and young men in drab uniforms are seen from behind being ushered by people whose shirts say, Probation."
According to the county Probation Department, 87 youths were moved to Los Padrinos from Central Juvenile Hall in Lincoln Heights on Wednesday, July 12, 2023, followed by 84 more on Thursday, July 13, 2023. File photo courtesy of Los Angeles County

Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey is officially back in business starting today, housing 171 young people who were transferred this week from one of two other county facilities deemed by the state to be unsuitable for housing young detainees.

According to the county Probation Department, 87 youths were moved to Los Padrinos from Central Juvenile Hall in Lincoln Heights on Wednesday, followed by 84 more on Thursday.

“It’s official—Los Padrinos is now a functioning juvenile hall and Central no longer houses youth,” county Interim Chief Probation Office rGuillermo Viera Rosa said in a statement.

Still unclear is when additional young people currently housed at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar, which was also deemed unsuitable by the state, will be moved to Los Padrinos. Viera Rosa said probation officials will “evaluate the stability of the situation” at Los Padrinos before making the move. But the state has required Nidorf to be cleared of pre-disposition youth detainees by July 23.

Nidorf will continue to be home to a Security Youth Track Facility for post-disposition juvenile offenders.

“When it is completed, the relocation of nearly 300 youth, along with hundreds of officers and staff to Los Padrinos, will be the beginning of a larger transformation of operations, staffing and culture in our juvenile halls,” Viera Rosa. “Vacating Central this quickly, safely and smoothly has required incredible effort and coordination with our partners in other county departments. It just shows what the county can do when everyone, from the Board of Supervisors down to the newest probation officer, pulls together.”

Earlier this month, the Board of State and Community Corrections officially notified the county that Los Padrinos had passed its pre-opening inspection, clearing it to house up to 317 “pre-disposition” youths—those whose criminal cases are still pending. Probation officials said they plan to house no more than 275 to 300 youths at the 26-acre campus.

Construction and probation crews worked furiously over the previous two months to get the facility up to speed in response to the BSCC’s ruling in May that Nidorf and Central halls were both unsuitable for housing pre-disposition youths. The board ordered all detainees to be relocated within 60 days.

The board cited a laundry list of ongoing violations of state standards at the facilities, including sanitary conditions of the housing units, detainees’ access to school and other programs and staffing shortfalls.

Prior to that decision by state regulators, the county Board of Supervisors on May 2 approved a plan to relocate all pre-disposition youths to Los Padrinos. Under that plan, Central Juvenile Hall will be used solely as an intake unit and medical and diagnostic/assessment hub for youths, and only post-disposition Secure Youth Track Facility youths will be housed at Nidorf.

Renovation work completed at Los Padrinos included new paint, new flooring, new furnishings, mattresses, fixtures, cameras, interior and exterior lighting upgrades, intercoms, plumbing and partitions for restroom privacy, according to the county.

Los Padrinos was originally opened in 1957. It includes 37 buildings, including 19 living units and nine dormitories, along with a kitchen, classrooms, recreation areas, library, infirmary, laundry, chapel, gym and pool.

California orders Los Angeles County to close ‘unsuitable’ youth prisons within 60 days