LA County Supervisors want to phase out pepper spray in youth homes

Nearly four years after calling for the abolition of pepper spray in juvenile facilities, a frustrated board of supervisors Tuesday directed the parole department to develop a plan to phase out its use in certain housing units within 45 days and ensure that the staff is trained on other crimes. escalation techniques.

The board initially voted to abolish the use of pepper spray in juvenile halls in February 2019, but its use has continued. In fact, a report released in November by the Probation Oversight Commission found that its use has actually escalated.

According to the report, pepper spray was deployed a total of 232 times at the Central Juvenile Hall and Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall between June and September of this year.

The report stated that the majority of youth sprayed by the county are identified as “developmentally disabled,” children who identify as victims of commercial sexual exploitation, and youth who are emotionally challenged.

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“The findings were incredibly disheartening and egregious, as there was a documented increase in the substantial use of (pepper) spray, particularly in the Central Juvenile Hall, despite the lower population of juvenile detainees,” said a motion filed by supervisors Hilda Solis. and Lindsey Horvat.

All five board members expressed frustration on Tuesday as they discussed the report, with probation officials pointing to issues such as reduced staffing and inadequate training in alternative dispute resolution methods to the continued use of Oleoresin Capsicum, or pepper spray.

County Chief Probation Officer Adolfo Gonzales told the board that pepper spray is primarily used to break up fights between juvenile detainees who are often racially motivated or gang-related.

The Probation Commission report stated that the Probation Department had participated in a training program that dealt with working with youth with developmental disabilities, but training ceased during the pandemic and has not been reinstated.

“Your department should have figured out how to keep this training going,” supervisor Janice Hahn told Gonzales, adding that staff need training on alternative ways to handle tense situations.

After a pointed discussion, the board unanimously approved the motion, which called on the probation department to develop a plan to eliminate the use of pepper spray in juvenile wards “which detain youth with developmental disabilities and girls and gender-expansive youth in Central Juvenile Hall” within 45 days . It also directed the county’s CEO to cut funding for the purchase of the spray while calling for regular updates on the phase-out.

It also called for the development of a Credible Messenger Program Pilot in the youth halls, using mentors to interact with youth in the halls to create a “more humane and trauma-informed environment” in the halls.

At the meeting, Solis said it was “disturbing” that the board even had to take up the issue again, four years after discontinuing use of the spray.

“Four years is too long,” Solis said in a statement after the vote. “These are vulnerable young people who should be on their way to healing, but instead have been further traumatized by these actions. It is inhumane for young people with developmental disabilities, girls and gender-expanding adolescents to be taken care of with AAC spray. This has to stop, and it must end now.”

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