Los Angeles city officials have been baffled by a recent surge of violent offences committed by minors in the juvenile detention system. Over the last several weeks the rate for violent offences within the system has surged by almost twice the number of active cases. Officials are at a loss to explain this surge but issued a statement assuring the public they everything is under control and there is no cause for alarm.
Activist groups are raising the alarm though, stating that such a surge must be due to the worsening problem over overcrowding and poor conditions in juvenile detention centers and city run group homes.
“It’s insane, these are children, not dangerous criminals. If a child is acting out in these disturbing ways, it’s the fault of the adults who are supposed to care for those children. Most of these kids are from low-income communities and many do not have family to go home to. We need to take care of these kids!”Director of the Citizens Against Child Violence Los Angeles Office
We were granted a tour of one of the cities most decorated group home facilities. The facility is a minimum security group home specializing in criminal cases for children under the age of 12. What we say there was startling. The facility was on lockdown, a 9 year old girl had stabbed a staff member in the chest with a ballpoint pen and tried to escape. While she was caught, she violently clawed a police officer and security guard in the face. The lead therapist of the facility had this to say:
“[She] has always been a kind girl, she has anger problems but never like this. This violence is totally unlike her, she’s never had anything close to an outburst like this before.Lead Therapist
The facility is designed to help children who’ve been convicted or are on trial for non-violent offences before they enter the foster care system. Most of the children we saw do not have a home outside the facility. Up until 2 weeks ago the facility had the best record in terms of recidivism and resident care in all of Los Angeles County. We asked what was going to happen to the young girl, the facility is considering transferring her and 4 others to in-patient psychiatric care hospitals, though beds in such facilities for children are extremely limited. The facility director refused to comment on the record, but has publicly voiced his concerns as early as last month that public funds were badly needed for psychiatric care for minors at facilities like his.