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Pepper Spray in Juvenile Facilities

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2011
4 pages
This issue brief examines the use of pepper spray in juvenile facilities.
This issue brief from the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators (CJCA) examines the use of pepper spray in juvenile facilities. Pepper spray, or oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray is a chemical restraint that incapacitates individuals by inducing an almost immediate burning sensation of the skin and burning, tearing, and swelling of the eyes. While most law enforcement agencies across the country authorize the use of OC spray on adult offenders, very few States authorize its use for juvenile offenders. In addition, few studies have been conducted on the effects of OC spray on young people, especially in a juvenile justice setting. The CJCA conducted an annual survey of State juvenile corrections agencies and found that in regards to the use of OC spray, 12 percent of the agencies authorized staff to carry chemical sprays in secure facilities, while 29 percent indicated that even though their agencies were authorized to use the spray, their staff were not necessarily authorized to carry and use it. Additional analyses found that those States that authorized the use of chemical sprays also had adopted policies and procedures that were more punitive in nature and resembled a adult-correction approach to managing juvenile offenders. The final section of the paper discusses the use of standards at juvenile correctional facilities regarding the use of chemical sprays and presents a brief overview of standards, both national and international, related to use of chemical agents in juvenile confinement settings. Figure, table, and references