A month of rioting that has left two dead and hundreds injured in the Los Angeles County jail system has spread to the county’s juvenile halls and probation camps, officials said Wednesday.
In recent months, three racially motivated riots have occurred at juvenile centers, including Saturday at Camp McNair in Lancaster, said County Probation Officers Union spokeswoman Barbara Maynard.
Union officials believe the escalating violence is being directed by the same gangs that have been behind the violence in the county’s adult jails and state prisons.
“The prison groups like the Mexican Mafia can call the shots all the way down to the juvenile halls and camps just like they do in the jails,” union President Ralph Miller said. “The power of these prison gangs has only increased, and it’s going to get a lot worse.”
Nearly 50 juveniles were involved in Saturday’s riot at Camp McNair, which is part of the Challenger Memorial Youth Center complex and houses violent juvenile offenders in an open dorm setting.
One male juvenile was hospitalized and several probation officers received minor injuries, Maynard said. After the incident, 32 juveniles were put in lockdown in a special housing unit.
The riot at Camp McNair is the second in two weeks. The first took place at Central Juvenile Hall and was also racially motivated, officials said. Late last year, a racially motivated riot took place at Camp Rockey in San Dimas.
In recent years, the understaffed halls and camps have been plagued by rising violence, especially at the Sylmar Juvenile Hall.
Violent incidents increased 12 percent from 2,094 in 2003 to 2,352 in 2004 and were expected to hit 2,700 in 2005. Last year’s final figures were not available Wednesday.
Another racially motivated fight broke out at North County Correctional Facility early Tuesday morning, marking more than a dozen brawls at the jail since Feb. 4, Sheriff’s Department officials said.
The 7:30 a.m. melee involved 94 black and Hispanic inmates fighting in a day room and a neighboring dormitory. Deputies used tear gas, rubber stingballs and pepperballs to quickly put down the fighting, said Sheriff Lee Baca spokesman Steve Whitmore.
One inmate suffered a head injury and was taken to an area hospital for treatment. Thirteen others were treated for less severe injuries, Whitmore said. No deputies were hurt.
NCCF, a section of Pitchess Detention Center, was placed on lockdown for the remainder of the day, the privileges of the inmates involved in the fighting, including phone calls and television, were taken away.
Another smaller disturbance broke out late Monday night, between two inmates who were getting off a bus at Pitchess Detention Center. Both incidents were determined to be racially motivated, Whitmore said.
Inmates commonly align themselves into one racial group once they are incarcerated, mostly out of fear that not choosing a side will create problems for themselves, Whitmore said.