An internal investigation into the Orange County Juvenile Hall in Orange has found lapses in security in what was supposed to be a high security unit.
The county's Office of Independent Review launched the investigation nearly a year ago after a highly publicized incident of sexual activity between male and female minors in a cell.
The two had been arrested for violent, gang related offenses. They were supposed to be checked on regularly by officers, but instead they were left unsupervised for hours.
Investigators found 16 officers regularly failed to do safety checks and who falsified logs to make it appear they were properly doing their jobs.
“It wasn’t just one bad day,” said Stephen Connolly, Executive Director of the Office of Independent Review. “It was a pattern of less than diligent conducting of their duties and responsibilities.”
He says the good news is that the Probation Department, which oversees the facility, responded quickly and assertively to the incident. Officials fired six workers and suspended seven others.
“There’s been accountability for the involved employees," said Connolly. "Just as importantly the department is really taking steps to ensure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again."
Supervisor Todd Spitzer said he still has questions about what happened and has called for a closed-session report.
“Who’s responsible? Who’s accountable? Why did it happen? Who dropped the ball? Why was the ball dropped?" asked Spitzer. "These juveniles, even though they are accused of a crime, they are still are our responsibility while they are in our custody. The county has potential liability. There are just a swirl of issues that need to be addressed by the Board of Supervisors.”
One key issue that’s already been addressed is that male and female juveniles are no longer housed together – as is standard practice at other local juvenile facilities.