In July of last year, County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Holly Mitchell sponsored a resolution to in part, transfer 40 male justice-involved youths temporarily to Campus Kilpatrick in the Malibu hills. The policy was passed 5-0 in open session. This prompted the Department of Detention to prepare several facilities, including Campus Kilpatrick in the Malibu Hills, to serve as “Secure Youth Treatment Facilities” (SYTF).
Initially, two campuses in Santa Clarita were slated to take a number of justice-involved young men and women, but community opposition in the suburb was fierce, leading to Kuehl and Mitchell’s resolution.
It doesn’t sound like the idea is popular to some in Malibu, either. Last evening, the Malibu City Council debated whether to authorize the Mayor to author a letter to the Board of Supervisors opposing the transfer.
A staff report on this council item states, “This proposed plan would put youth offenders who have been categorized as the most violent into a facility that was not designed or built for this purpose. It potentially puts at risk all those involved, including staff, other detainees, and possibly residents in the surrounding communities.” It later continues, “it was designed to function as a rehabilitative service facility for lower risk inhabitants. However, it is not set up with the necessary security enhancements to function as a secure track site for potentially dangerous or violent detainees.”
However, Supervisor Kuehl wrote an Open Letter to the Residents of Malibu on March 10 which seems to have anticipated such resistance. It states that neuroscience research is clear, and that we’ve, “learned that most youth, including youth with serious charges, are healthier, less likely to have future contact with the justice system, and more likely to repair harm when the response to their behavior is restorative, not punitive.”
The letter also addresses safety concerns, saying that Campus Kilpatrick, “is a locked facility where young people live in a therapeutic home-like setting and are provided with individualized, trauma-informed plans to help them heal, build skills, and transition to responsible and constructive lives.” Kuehl goes on to say, “The safety of the staff and young people at Campus Kilpatrick, as well as surrounding communities, is a very high priority. We are currently working with architects to oversee needed renovations and that work will include a determination regarding whether additional security is needed.”
But it was clear from some of the dialogue among Malibu Council members that the Supervisor’s assurances aside, they were most frustrated to not have been consulted. They asserted that no one in Malibu government was sent the letter by Kuehl’s office directly, and they had to receive it from other sources just a day or so before the meeting. In fact, the councilmember supporting the motion to oppose the youth transfer, Karen Farrer, seemed to imply that the transfer plan must have been secretly derived.
“I was made aware – by a source who asked to remain anonymous – of this plan that was voted on by the Board of Supervisors last summer,” she said, continuing, “The first thing I did was notify the Interim City Manager and then the Las Virgenes-Malibu Council of Government’s (COG) Executive Director.” She then spoke of her experience dealing with a representative of Supervisor Kuehl’s staff who admitted the City of Malibu had not been specifically notified but that the Board of Supervisor’s motion for the plan was placed on a publicly noticed agenda.
With a shrug, Farrer then said, “That was seen to have been sufficient.”
Citing the heavy resistance in Santa Clarita, Farrer concluded, “None of the COG cities were notified, and I don’t think that was an accident.” And in breaking news to the council, Farrer informed her colleagues that a competing motion by the Board of Supervisor’s only Republican, Supervisor Catherine Barger, would make the Barry J. Nidorf facility in Sylmar the permanent home for these particular youth instead of Campus Kilpatrick.
Turning to Supervisor Kuehl’s letter, she began, “I don’t disagree with anything that the Supervisor’s letter says… what I do have a strong disagreement with, is placing the most serious offenders – which typically means the most violent offenders – into a facility that was neither designed nor built for them.”
A small round of public comment was a mix of support for and mockery of the council. Resident Bill Sampson, who says he has worked inside several of Malibu’s juvenile detention facilities, said, “I’ve been in all of these places. The stories of the kids – not those that they’re proposing to put in there – are heartbreaking.” But he added later, “The people they’re talking about putting in there need to be separated from society.”
But local resident and performer Alex Stein wasn’t kind to councilwoman Farrer, mocking her resistance to housing these particular youths. “You’re going to sit on your throne, act like Marie Antoinette, let them eat cake, or let them go to L.A. County.” He later concluded, “What you’re doing is you’re just gas lighting us, [telling us] ‘you should live in fear.’”
Resident Jay Knight accused the council of going off on a NIMBY tangent to simply keep the youth far from their Malibu homes. “I hope we see more restorative justice here in the community.”
When time came for council to deliberate, Councilmember Bruce Silverstein saw plenty of problems with the Supervisor’s plans, but felt moving forward without the letter pre-written to be foolhardy. “We don’t have a copy of the letter that we’re being asked to send, and so this is kind of a half-baked request,” he said. He then pointed to the other neighboring cities to consider and suggested collaboration with them on a consensus statement would be better.
Mayor Paul Grisanti tried to aid Farrer in keeping focus on the youths, saying, “The offenders that they’re talking about here aren’t people who have had a little bump in the road along the way. These are violent criminals who have killed people.” He informed his colleagues that there will be a larger group of men going up to age 25 involved, not just teenagers, and average age is a high 19.5 years.
Councilmember Mikke Pierson was the only one to recall that it wasn’t perhaps the first time the council had heard about the proposal, but still pointed to Kuehl and Mitchell, saying, “Remember we heard this a long time ago, then it went away? And now it came back with no notice? That seems like a big miss on the Supervisor’s part.”
With the Las Virgenes-Malibu COG not meeting until the next morning, ultimately Farrer still pushed forward with her motion that the city write an opposition letter. It was seconded by the mayor. They were opposed by Councilmembers Silverstein and Steve Uhring. Councilmember Pierson abstained, citing a lack of information.
Instead, council will see what the results are at the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday morning and perhaps respond with other COG members that include, among others, Agoura Hills, Calabasas, and Westlake Village if Supervisor Barger’s alternative motion is not adopted.