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Orange County

State Budget Saves Juvenile Camps

Two facilities and 150 jobs survive the ax under a renegotiated California budget. The county's probation chief calls it a 'travesty' averted.

August 04, 2004|Stuart Pfeifer | Times Staff Writer

Late changes to the state budget spared the Orange County Probation Department from laying off 150 workers and closing two juvenile camps, the county's top probation officer said Tuesday.

Had state lawmakers followed through with plans to cut $12.5 million in department funding, department officials were prepared to shut down the Los Pinos camp in the Cleveland National Forest and the Joplin Youth Center in Trabuco Canyon, said Chief Probation Officer Stephanie Lewis.

But the state restored $134 million in funding to probation departments statewide, including the $12.5 million to Orange County. As a result, the county can continue to provide services to troubled youths locally and avoid placing them in state custody.

"This is good news," Lewis said. "Without the money, we would have eventually been forced to a complete shutdown [of the camps], which would have been a travesty."

By funding the local camps, the state avoids having to house juveniles in state facilities, Lewis said.

After probation departments statewide realized they were targeted for budget cuts, they lobbied lawmakers on the importance of the camps, Lewis said.

Whether the camps become a target next year remains to be seen.

"Believe it or not, we're just a couple months away from starting the process up all over again," Lewis said.

"The county is still going to be trying to balance a budget during difficult times. So I don't think it's going to get real easy for any of us."

Los Pinos houses up to 150 boys ages 16 and 17 for felony offenses. Joplin has a capacity of 64 boys, most of them 14 and 15 years old. The chief benefit of the local camps, Lewis said, lies in keeping the juveniles close to home and county services such as education and mental health treatment.

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