May 1, 2015

Pepper Spray Use Halted in Santa Clara County Juvenile Hall

On April 20, 2015 YLC celebrated the end of a Santa Clara County Probation Department pilot program to allow the use of pepper spray in one of the units in its juvenile hall.  The pilot was developed in 2014 as a result of labor negotiations between the County and the union representing juvenile hall staff. Staff claimed that pepper spray was needed to address the increasingly violent population held in the facility. Upon learning of the pilot program, YLC expressed concern to the Board of Supervisors that the pilot program had been allowed without notice or an opportunity for stakeholders to weigh in on the harm caused by pepper spray.  YLC also provided background information on legal, medical and rehabilitative issues and worked with a broad coalition of advocacy groups, community organizations, the Juvenile Justice Commission, and the County Office of Education who also oppose the use of pepper spray. The opposition successfully rebutted assertions of increased violence in the facility, conveyed concerns about the physical and emotional harm caused by using pepper spray, and offered alternative ways address staff needs. The Probation Department considered all of the information and wisely decided not to continue the pilot program or the use of pepper spray in the living unit.

Youth Law Center letter to Santa Clara Board of Supervisors