Youth Justice

WEDS: CDF-CA Youth Justice Director to Share Testimony on CA’s Juvenile Justice System as State Questions Whether Two LA County Juvenile Facilities are Unsuitable to Confine Youth

The two county facilities both failed state inspections in January. CDF-CA has repeatedly admonished the juvenile halls for providing their young detainees substandard care.

Media Contact:

Milinda Kakani,, CDF-CA Youth Justice Director, 626-252-3052

John Henry,, CDF Media Relations Manager, 708-646-7679

Los Angeles, CA—On Wednesday, staff from Children’s Defense Fund-California and several other California youth advocacy organizations will provide lawmakers in Sacramento with their observations on the state of California’s juvenile justice system since the passing of Senate Bill 823 and the closure of the Division of Juvenile Justice. The scheduled hearing will come just one day before a state board will decide whether two Los Angeles County juvenile facilities are unsuitable to house youth due to substandard conditions.

Children’s Defense Fund-California (CDF-CA) Youth Justice Director Milinda Kakani also serves as a Los Angeles County Probation Oversight Commissioner. She will be one of more than a dozen people to provide expert testimony to the California Senate Budget Subcommittee during its Oversight of Juvenile Justice Realignment hearing.

California state officials ruled two of Los Angeles County’s juvenile detention halls unsuitable for housing youth last year.  State regulators will now decide on February 15 whether to shut down Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey for failing a state compliance inspection, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Los Angeles Daily News reported in January that California officials also determined the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar did not provide the level of care expected by the state.

CDF-CA Youth Justice Director Milinda Kakani has called attention to the abhorrent conditions of Los Angeles County’s juvenile detention halls for years. Staff callouts at the facilities have caused young people to miss school, programming, and recreational time routinely. There have even been reports of youth urinating in their own rooms overnight because no staff has been present to take them to restrooms.

“SB 823 was an acknowledgment that our juvenile carceral system cannot care for our young people in a way that does not compound their trauma, thereby undermining public safety,” Kakani said. “Creating a funding stream rooted in public health and the humanity of our young people was the right step. Unfortunately, relying on Probation Departments to implement this vision has only resulted in a replication of Division of Juvenile Justice in our counties. We cannot fund or train our way out of culture of control and exploitation.”

Kakani’s testimony comes as California State Assemblymembers consider whether to infuse Los Angeles County’s juvenile halls with another $1 billion worth of structural improvements this session. It must be noted the overwhelming majority of violations observed by state officials in facilities have not been connected to their structural integrity. Last year, California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a similar misguided proposal  to renovate Los Angeles County’s juvenile facilities physically.

*Kakani and other CDF-CA experts are available to speak to reporters prior to this week’s Senate hearing.

What:      California Senate Budget Subcommittee – Oversight of Juvenile Justice Realignment hearing

When:     Wednesday, February 14, 2024

                9:30 a.m.—1 p.m.

Where:    Livestream –

1021 O St, Sacramento, CA 95814

Room 2100 (Second Floor)

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About Children’s Defense Fund

Founded in 1973, Children’s Defense Fund envisions a nation where marginalized children flourish, leaders prioritize their well-being, and communities wield the power to ensure they thrive. The only national, multi-issue advocacy organization working at the intersection of child well-being and racial justice, CDF advances the well-being of America’s most diverse generation, the 74 million children and youth under the age of 18 and 30 million young adults under the age of 25. CDF’s grassroots movements in marginalized communities build power for child-centered public policy, informed by racial equity and the lived experience of children and youth. Its renowned CDF Freedom Schools® program is conducted in nearly 100 cities across 30 states and territories. Learn more at