By: Nancy Sagona
Malibu’s Camp Kilpatrick juvenile detention facility is poised to become a test case for a new model of young offender rehabilitation, after county officials recently approved a plan to accelerate a $48 million rebuild and renovation of the camp.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed to start the demolition of the aging, 50-year-old Malibu probation camp as early as March 2014. Reconstruction of new facilities will begin in November 2014 and take approximately 20 months to complete. Camp Kilpatrick is a 125-bed juvenile correctional facility located at 427 S. Encinal Canyon Road.
“We have been working on this [project] for a long time,” said Santos Kreimann, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Operations at the Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office. “All of us are really excited to be building this.”
The renovated camp will see large dorms replaced with smaller facilities in a new design model recommended to county officials by the Children’s Defense Fund-California and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Currently, most juvenile camps house inmates in 80-120 bed large group dormitories. After construction completion, inmates at Camp Kilpatrick will be housed in groups of 12.
Jorja Leap, a professor of Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin, is partnering with The Children’s Defense Fund to reform juvenile probation camps. Their goal is to steer correctional facilities for juveniles away from punishment and move toward rehabilitation. Leap believes the new small group design model allows for individual attention to be given to the offenders for substance abuse, mental health, educational and criminological issues.
“If this reformation is done the right way, Los Angeles County will be poised to become a model on a national level for the juvenile reform process,” said Leap. “Implementing these changes is life-saving. They save everyone’s life, because it makes our communities safer.”
Felicia Cotton, Deputy Chief of Juvenile Institutions for the Los Angeles County Probation Department, says that the smaller group is the centerpiece of the model. “It encourages the youths to build relationships not only with each other, but with the staff,” Cotton said. “This is the most exciting opportunity for the young offenders and the county because it culminates over a decade of research.”
The new Malibu facility will provide the youths with the best programs that will help them to be successful when they leave the camp. Educational reforms at the camps place the emphasis on literacy. Researchers believe learning is one of the most effective ways to change a youngster’s life.
L.A. County’s juvenile justice system is the largest in the nation, detaining nearly 2,000 youth in three juvenile halls and 14 probation camps on any given day. In 2007, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 81, which opened up new funding streams for localities to improve juvenile justice facilities.
The state grant, authorized by the 2007 Juvenile Justice Reform Bill, will pay 75 percent of the cost of the remodel of Malibu-based Camp Kilpatrick, with the county paying the remaining estimated cost of $12.4 million in matched funds. The new facility will increase in size from approximately 42,000 square feet to 54,000 square feet.
“It is exciting because this is not just going to change Malibu, it will create a change everywhere,” Leap said.
When completed, the new Camp Kilpatrick will have a full court gymnasium, increased from a half court gym, which will serve as a multipurpose room, dining area, visiting area, chapel and special assembly.
The camp is known for its sports program. Its football program inspired the 2006 movie “The Gridiron Gang,” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. But budget shortfalls forced the camp to close its sports program in 2012.
The department is currently looking into all the programs to see which of them will provide the inmates with the most skills. Proposed project scope changes and programs were discussed in the Chief Probation Officer’s report for the new Camp Kilpatrick.
“They are going to choose the programs that prove to be the best for the inmates,” said Cotton. “They want them to be employable, equipped and rehabilitated when they are released from the camp.”