Thursday, February 14, 2019

California Juvenile Detention Centers Using Pepper Spray

juvenile detention
Pepper spray, like mace, is a non-lethal form of restraint that law enforcement agents utilize on a regular basis. The ingredients result in inflammation of the eyes and lungs, causing temporary vision loss and shortness of breath. Once disabled, officers are better able to restrain subjects. While the agent is less-than-lethal, there are instances when the chemical agent is a contributing factor in premature death.

In California, juvenile detention facility guidelines permit staffers to use pepper spray or oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray, only as a last resort to de-escalate difficult situations, Los Angeles Daily News reports. However, a new report from the Los Angeles County’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) finds that officers are relying on pepper spray to subdue juveniles at an alarming rate, often using the lachrymatory agent unnecessarily.

The report was conducted at the behest of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (Board). The call for an investigation came after revelations brought to light last year that incidents involving oleoresin capsicum spray in juvenile detention facilities skyrocketed more than 150 percent from 2015 to 2017. The OIG report cites instances of juveniles being subjected to OC and are then left in their rooms without assistance, forced to rely on toilet water to clean/remove the oleoresin capsicum from their skin and eyes.

Initial or Intermediary Force Option


According to the report, thirty-five states have banned the use of OC spray in juvenile facilities. California is just one of six states that allow the use of pepper spray on youths housed in detention centers. Such facilities include Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall, Central Juvenile Hall, Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, Camp Ellison Onizuka, and Camp Ronald McNair. There are California counties that prohibit juvenile detention officers from deploying OC, encouraging the use of other de-escalation techniques instead, i.e., San Francisco County, Santa Cruz County, Marin County, and Santa Clara County.

The OIG report underscores the need for more de-escalation training, especially in Los Angeles County. Cathleen Beltz, assistant inspector general, said the goal is to reduce or eliminate the use of OC within LA County’s juvenile facilities. The investigators found consistent use of OC spray as an “initial or intermediary force option, rather than as one that follows a failure to de-escalate or the use of less significant force.”

“The fundamental issue here is not about the tools that staff use,” said Terri McDonald, LA County chief probation officer. “The question is, how can we create a culture or environment in which force is a rarity?” 

McDonald adds that the department will not tolerate “unnecessary or excessive force in our facilities…A single case of abuse of our youth is one too many.” The chief probation officer is not opposed to doing away with the use of OC, “But a change of this magnitude will require thoughtful analysis, planning, training, and potentially increased resources to ensure institutional safety.”

California Juvenile Defense Attorney


As a former juvenile prosecutor, attorney Katie Walsh has the experience and understanding of the law to advocate for your son or daughter who is facing legal trouble. Please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh for a free consultation and to learn how she will use her expertise to defend and achieve a favorable outcome for your loved one.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

New Laws Affecting California Juveniles

school expulsion
School suspension and expulsion rates is a topic of significant concern in the United States. The data tells us that when young people are excluded from participating in class, due to behavioral issues, they are at severe risk of facing problems later in life. Evidence shows that discipline inside the classroom, as well as outside the classroom, can have lasting impacts on children.

Teachers have incredibly challenging jobs. On average, they have to keep as many as 30 young people in line for hours at a time and to ensure that they learn the skills to move forward. Having just one disruptive student in the classroom can affect the experience of all other students. In the past, the standard protocol would be to separate unruly students from the well-behaved. Continued infractions often result in suspension and/or expulsion for severe cases.

Here in California, a number of laws have been passed in recent years to help put an end to the school-to-prison pipeline. SB 439 establishes 12 years as the minimum age for prosecution in juvenile court. SB 1391 makes it unlawful to try youths under the age of 16 as an adult.

In 2014, a law was enacted to ban the suspension of students in grades K-3 for acts of “disruption and defiance.” Last year, California Senator Nancy Skinner attempted to get Senate Bill 607 signed by Governor Jerry Brown, which would have expanded the 2014 law up to eighth grade. Unfortunately, Governor Brown did not go along with the expansion, but it is likely that the effort to end disruption and defiance suspensions will continue.

Positive New Laws Affecting Young People In California


While former Gov. Brown did not get on board with SB 607, he did sign Assembly Bill 752. The legislation prohibits state-funded preschools from expelling students, Voice of OC report. This year, preschoolers can be expelled, only after all other alternatives to support the children or family have been exhausted.

Assembly Bill (AB) 2698 is another piece of legislation of note; it increases access to critical early childhood mental health consultation services for infants and toddlers. The bill puts more mental health consultants into publicly funded preschools and child care centers.

 “As a teacher of 30 years in Orange County, I was able to gain profound insight into the importance of meeting the needs of our young children and their families. Improving services to support early childhood education will always remain a priority,” said Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva.


California Juvenile Justice Attorney


Please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh if your child is facing a school expulsion hearing in California. Attorney Walsh is a former prosecutor who is familiar with the juvenile court system. Our team can answer your school expulsion questions and advocate for your family.