Los Angeles County Probation Department officials presented their Spray Phase-Out Plan to the County Board of Supervisors Tuesday during the Board’s regular public meeting.
Under the plan, the Probation Department will completely cease its utilization of OC Spray (commonly referred to as “pepper spray”) in juvenile camps by July 31, 2019 and in juvenile halls by September 2020.
This move away from a command and control approach to juvenile justice is just one of several steps the Department is taking in reforming juvenile corrections in L.A. County.
Development of the plan was a collaborative effort that included input by numerous Probation employees, community-based organizations, and nationally-renown subject matter experts. The plan also synthesizes and addresses the related recommendations provided by the county’s Office of the Inspector General and the Probation Reform and Implementation Team.
Sheila Mitchell, chief deputy for Juvenile Services, has been a strong advocate for ensuring that the various and complex needs of the youth detained within the facilities are addressed as a key component in their rehabilitation.
“The goal is to move toward a more rehabilitative environment that addresses the underlying needs and trauma youth under the supervision of Probation have faced,” Mitchell said. “Improving the conditions of confinement, reducing incidents of violence for both youth and staff, and to setting goals for long-term successful outcomes are all taken into consideration in this new plan.”
Probation’s plan to reduce the use of OC spray with the result of elimination has seven key elements:
* A targeted reduction of OC spray that occurs phases out OC spray over time;
* Increased staffing levels;
* Increasing mental health services;
* Increased training for staff that includes training on crisis interventions, de-escalating aggression, and adolescent development;
* Creating a robust menu of services that will keep youth engaged, teach new skills, and offer new resources and programs that aide in their transition back into the community;
* Implementing a strength and incentive-based behavior management system; and
* Remodeling of outdated facilities to improve the atmosphere and conditions of confinement which have a significant impact on both staff and youth attitudes and help transition these facilities into the small group program model currently utilized at Probation’s Campus Kilpatrick.
“This is an important paradigm shift for the Probation Department, moving from detention services to a trauma-informed approach,” said Chief Probation Officer Terri L. McDonald. “I know this won’t be easy, but we must continue to profoundly change from an organization focused on control and confinement to one that is about engagement and rehabilitation.”
To fully implement the plan, extensive training for Probation staff, increasing the youth to staff ratio, and overhauling operational procedures to produce the best possible results for youth success will be needed.
The Probation Department will be working with the County’s Chief Executive Office and the Board of Supervisors to determine how much of savings from the closure of seven camps and a juvenile hall since 2017 can be redirected to expand services for youth and staff to provide support to enhanced rehabilitative services.