Our View | Juvenile Inmates: Here We Go Again

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There’s a long and storied history of federal, state, county and Los Angeles city officials looking to the Santa Clarita Valley as a location for things they would rather not put near their own homes. 

In the past half-century, the people of the SCV have battled against everything from massive hog farms — in which the hogs would “eat” Los Angeles’ voluminous trash — to a state prison to a toxic waste dump to a massive trash dump in Elsmere Canyon.

These proposals would always come with some negative impact upon the SCV, whether it be traffic, air quality, water quality, or just plain quality of life.

For the most part, we’ve won. The SCV is not one giant trash-guzzling hog farm, the Elsmere landfill was stopped in its tracks after years of activism, and there’s no toxic waste dump in our valley.

But, predictably, they’re at it again.

A state-appointed committee, the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council, is making plans to export all of L.A.’s most dangerous juvenile criminals to Saugus.

It only came to light this week, and local officials were surprised, including the city of Santa Clarita and county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose district includes the SCV. They were surprised because all of the machinations have been happening rather quietly, as the JJCC’s Juvenile Justice Realignment Block Grant Ad-Hoc Subcommittee has been sorting out how L.A. County will have to deal with the impacts of state legislation, Senate Bills 92 and 823, which ultimately call for the state’s juvenile facilities to be closed by 2023, leaving local jurisdictions to deal with incarceration of juvenile offenders. 

The committee has its eye on two local camps on the 28700 block of Bouquet Canyon Road, about a quarter-mile east of David Way in Saugus. 

As the plan goes, the inmates would be temporarily housed at a camp in Malibu. But you know they can’t stay there. It’s Malibu!

So, once all the bureaucratic I’s are dotted and T’s crossed, and the previously shuttered Camp Joseph Scott in Saugus is ready, the youth offenders will be sent here. 

It’s all part of the efforts by state and county governments to reduce the incarceration of juveniles. The popular talk in political circles now is about diversion and rehabilitation — warm, fuzzy concepts that might lead you to believe there will be no need to incarcerate juvenile criminals. That may indeed be the goal under the policies of L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón — who never met a criminal he didn’t want to put back out on the streets.

But let’s make no mistake: Diversion and rehabilitation will be for the lesser of the criminal youth. Camp Scott will not be targeted to house the kid who stole a candy bar from the neighborhood convenience store and just needs counseling to be a better person.

No.

We are talking about the most serious, violent juvenile offenders, killers, armed robbers, gang members, rapists, who all just happen to be juveniles. They’re the ones that even the most “progressive” political leaders would have a hard time arguing shouldn’t be incarcerated somewhere.

And that somewhere, is here. 

Will that impact your property values, your community safety, your quality of life? Quite possibly, yes. Should you have an opportunity to have your voice heard about such concerns? Absolutely. 

But so far, all of these machinations have been taking place out of public view — to the extent that our city government and our county supervisor say that even they didn’t know it was happening.

The Santa Clarita City Council is taking up the issue at its meeting Tuesday. The plan goes before the county Board of Supervisors in August. We expect the council and Barger to stand up for the SCV, and fight the good fight. 

Regrettably, such a fight is all too familiar for our community.

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