New Rules Could Increase Use of Pepper Spray on Youths

New rules under consideration at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department would expand the authority of county juvenile probation agencies to use pepper spray on aggressive youth offenders in secure facilities.

County probation chiefs from across the state are asking the TJJD Board to approve the new rules, saying they would provide more local control over how the facilities are operated. But some advocates worry that more use of so-called chemical restraints could be a dangerous step backward in efforts to reform the state’s juvenile justice system.

“Whatever benefits they feel like they might get out of utilizing pepper spray are not big enough for all the dangers,” said Ana Yáñez-Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

At its Oct. 18 meeting, the TJJD Board tabled the publication of new, expanded rules for the use of pepper spray that were proposed by a TJJD advisory council composed of county probation officials. The board wanted more information about how the rule would be implemented and overseen.

Currently, the use of pepper spray at county juvenile facilities is permitted only in case of a riot. The proposed new rules would allow counties to use it when youths becomes physically aggressive and endanger themselves or others, but only if other forms of restraint won’t work.

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