New bill aims to prevent use of pepper spray in juvenile detention centers

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – A new bill being proposed may end the use of pepper spray in all juvenile detention centers across California.

Sacramento County Youth Detention Facility officials told FOX40 Sunday that pepper spray is used by every one of their assistant probation officers.

“It’s one of the tools that we use as a strategy to avoid further altercations whether that be youth on youth or youth on staff,” explained Marlon Yarber, the assistant chief probation officer for juvenile operations.

Yarber said his staff uses the pepper spray about three times a month.

“It’s utilized when necessary,” he said.

The pepper spray strategy might no longer be an option in the future because of Assembly Bill 1165, introduced by Assembly Member Mike Gipson, D-Carson.

“Bans the use of pepper spray, tear gas, or OC spray in the entire state of California,” Gipson explained.

Gipson said he is proposing this bill after hearing from juveniles who have had negative experiences with pepper spray while incarcerated.

“This is absolutely necessary because a number of our juvenile facilities and juveniles are coming from traumatized backgrounds and is further being traumatized and de-humanized by this spray,” Gipson explained.

Yarber said removing the pepper spray tool makes him not only concerned about his staff’s safety but also the youth’s well-being, claiming the alternative would be physical force.

“Without that tool, my fear is that it would create opportunities for, or increase the opportunity for injury to occur, and I don’t think anyone wants to see that,” Yarber explained.

Gipson said seven counties, many of them in Northern California, have already banned pepper spray and challenges Sacramento County to do the same.

“Why can’t we utilize their techniques to control a situation? Why can’t we? I’m saying we can,” Gipson said.

In Sacramento County, when pepper spray is used on a juvenile, county officials said the juveniles are immediately decontaminated and offered medical help as well as mental health access.

A similar bill was introduced in 2020 but was not heard because of the pandemic.

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