One-time juvenile detention Camp David Gonzales in Calabasas will become a residential job training center for 18- to 25-year-old men, based on a vote by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl called the conversion “another milestone in realizing the county’s vision to give all of our young people the support and skills they need to set them on a path to success.”
The center will serve young men who have been part of the child welfare or juvenile justice systems or experienced homelessness, offering free housing and technical training in building and construction trades or food service and the culinary arts. Residents will also receive supportive services, life skills training, counseling, guaranteed job placement and an accredited diploma program for those without a high school degree.
Supervisor Hilda Solis, who co-authored the motion recommending the makeover, said it was indicative of a “movement away from incarceration towards a new focus on diversion and positive development.”
The probation department is moving to gradually close its juvenile camps as the number of young probationers has declined and the system is focused on a less punitive, more rehabilitative model of justice. The changes at Camp Gonzales follow the reopening of Campus Kilpatrick, which houses juvenile offenders in small-group settings rather than the traditional barracks-style housing and emphasizes education, counseling and job training.
Residents at Camp Gonzales will live on campus five out of seven days with an option to return to their families on the weekend.
Probation Chief Terri McDonald said the plan would also improve public safety.
“Investing in education and career training is a smart strategy that will help youth develop the skills needed to become contributing members of the community while improving community safety,” McDonald said.
That idea was echoed by a man who spent time in detention at Camp Gonzales and said he wished he’d had this kind of opportunity when he was released.
“I probably would not have gotten locked up again if I had been able to go somewhere that helped me focus, away from the distractions of the neighborhood,” Greg Derisso said.
A probation department spokeswoman said Derisso is now in school and getting job training.
The board’s vote on Camp Gonzales directs staffers to return in 60 days with a detailed plan for the pilot program, including the extent of physical renovations required.