A teenager was found dead of an apparent overdose in one of L.A. County’s juvenile halls on Tuesday morning, just weeks after a state review board decided not to close the troubled facility after years of worrying reports, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation.
Multiple officials from the probation department at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar said that the teen was found unconscious in his room on Tuesday morning. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were afraid of being punished by the department.
One official said that an officer used Narcan, a nasal spray that can reverse an opioid overdose, but the teen could not be saved and was declared dead shortly after. The source said the teen was no older than 18 and lived in the Secure Youth Track Facility, which is where young people accused of major and violent crimes stay.
The tweet below confirms the news:
Teen dies of overdose in troubled L.A. County juvenile hall, sources sayhttps://t.co/ztCDaLiQhj
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) May 9, 2023
When asked for a comment, the probation department did not answer right away.
In the last few weeks, there have been more and more worries about how often drugs are used inside the Secure Youth Track Facility. In two cases in late February, young people overdosed on fentanyl and had to be taken to local hospitals or brought back to life with Narcan, according to a report from the L.A. County Office of the Inspector General that came out last month.
The inspector general report says that a check of the unit where the teens overdosed in early March turned up fentanyl-laced pills and “two large bundles of what appeared to be fentanyl” in a youth dormitory.
At a March meeting about these overdoses, an attorney for one of the youths said that they had just moved back to Los Angeles from the state Division of Juvenile Justice, which Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered to close in 2019 and will be completely shut down by July.
A transcript of the meeting shows that the youths’ lawyer, Angeles Zaragosa, said that they did not have any drug problems before coming back to L.A. County.
During the meeting, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Miguel Espinoza said he was worried that the situation could turn deadly soon, which is exactly what happened Tuesday.
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“It seems like it was just a stroke of luck that the people who found these two young people knew how to use Narcan and had it on hand,” Espinoza said. “It seems likely that one or both of the youths would have died if they had been in a different unit or if they had been there when there was an untrained staff member.”
Over the past year, L.A. County’s juvenile centers have been closely watched because a lack of staff has led to more reports of violence and drug use in the halls. The California Board of State and Community Corrections has said many times that the rooms are “unsuitable” for housing young people.
But last month, after the probation department’s latest failure to follow state rules, the board decided not to close the halls. This angered juvenile justice watchdogs and lawyers who say the conditions in the halls are too bad to fix.
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