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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Drum Corps Program OK’d for LA County Juvenile Halls


Weeks before a deadline to clear its juvenile halls over concerns about conditions and lack of programs for detainees, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to provide a musical rehabilitative program for juveniles in the halls.

According to the motion by Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Lindsey Horvath, “rehabilitation and development, in large part, are dependent on the ability of youth in locked facilities to receive timely consistent programming … transformative in nature that prepares them successfully to transition back into the community.”

The motion calls for the county to contract with the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, a 14-year-old nonprofit specializing in bringing music education and performances to underserved children throughout the county, to develop a Drum Corps Program for youth detainees at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall and other facilities where youth are housed.

According to the motion, the program will give detainees a chance to learn to play instruments, read music and connect to musical programming. It will also “enhance their problem solving skills and critical thinking.”

The proposed contract would be a short-term arrangement, not exceeding two years or $500,000, after which a competitive bidding process would be conducted for future programming for detainees.

ICYOLA founder Charles Dickerson, a former chair of the Los Angeles city Board of Public Works, said the organization pioneered the Drum Corps program last year. He said the program, which he hopes can begin for juvenile detainees by this fall, “can teach values, provide connection with real musicians and can also teach the importance of organization.”

He said the Drum Corps stresses percussion instruments because they are easier for beginners to learn than melody instruments such as flutes and violins. He said he and four other ICYOLA staffers would teach for the Corps.

The training would be two hours per day, two days per week for 30 weeks. Classroom training would include music theory and cultural musical history.

The county is under fire for its operation of juvenile justice facilities, and last month, the Board of State and Community Corrections declared Nidorf Hall in Sylmar and Central Juvenile Hall in Lincoln Heights to be unsuitable for housing pre-disposition youth detainees. The county was ordered to move all pre-disposition youth out of the facilities within 60 days, or roughly the end of July.

The Board of Supervisors previously approved a plan to relocate the pre-disposition detainees — whose cases still have not been adjudicated in court — to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey that is under renovation. Nidorf Hall, however, will continue to house a Secure Youth Treatment Facility for post-disposition youth.

The motion approved by the board Tuesday notes that recent surveys found that youth detainees requested more music and arts-related programming. It also noted that given the long-term troubles in county juvenile lockups and the need for creative activities for detainees, “the urgent expansion of programming cannot be overstated.”

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