Lawsuit alleges widespread abuse at L.A. County juvenile detention camp

A lawsuit filed on March 9 details horrific allegations of sexual abuse against at least 20 women who attended Los Angeles County’s female juvenile detention facility Camp Scott.

The alleged acts took place between 1996 and 2008. Staff are accused of grooming and assaulting young girls at the military-style boot camp in Santa Clarita. In one instance, a girl was allegedly impregnated by one of the staff members.

“It does not surprise me. The conditions were horrible,” former Probation Oversight Committee Commissioner Joe Kaplan told the Los Angeles Times. “The probation department heads at the time allowed children’s lives to be ruined every day.”

One victim told the Times that probation officers would pick the girl or girls they wanted to have a sexual relationship with. Girls were claimed, rated, and traded like property, according to attorney John Manly. In some cases, the abuse continued after the girls left the facility.

This is not the first time Camp Scott has come up as it relates to sexual abuse. The results of a federal investigation released in 2008 revealed systemic abuse at Los Angeles juvenile camps. A Camp Scott staffer was implicated in two prior abuse reports. Camp Scott was called out for failing to report an inappropriate relationship between a staffer and a juvenile to the Department of Children and Family Services.

The county hired independent monitors to increase safety at the county’s youth facilities after the 2008 report. Nevertheless, the most recent lawsuit says the county did not do enough to protect the children. In 2010, a Los Angeles Times investigation found that 11 people working in L.A. juvenile detention halls and camps had been convicted of crimes or punished for inappropriate conduct with probationers.

In 2020, Los Angeles County supervisors voted to transition juvenile probation to a new Department of Youth Development model. In the coming years, the county’s juvenile probation system will be replaced with a new agency that emphasizes emotional support and counseling instead of detention.