Today the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a motion authored by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas to phase out the use of oleoresin capsicum spray (pepper spray) in County juvenile facilities.

Pepper spray can cause intense eye pain, and lead to temporary blindness, burning in the throat, blistering of the skin and an inability to breathe. Research indicates that the use of the spray on young people can also cause psychological harm, and many juvenile justice experts have determined that its use is needlessly punitive and can be counter-productive. California is 1 of only 15 states that continues to permit the use of pepper spray.

“We have a responsibility for the safety and well-being of the young people in our custody, and research has made it clear that the use of pepper spray can cause lasting harm,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “We need to use better alternatives to manage discipline issues such as verbal de-escalation and cognitive behavioral therapy. This motion will lay the groundwork for the safety of our young people and our Probation staff in juvenile facilities.”

The motion calls for a plan to be developed within 60 days that considers best practice alternatives to pepper spray and phases out its use in a deliberate and progressive manner.

“Problems with pepper spray have been longstanding, dating back to at least 2003, according to federal monitors. The Office of the Inspector General’s recent report found many of the same issues we’ve seen before: misuse, overuse, and inaccurate reporting, underscoring a crisis in culture within the Probation Department,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who co-authored the motion. “Other jurisdictions across the nation have thoughtfully and incrementally phased out pepper spray, and both youth and staff have felt the benefits. With today’s vote, the Board is committing to create a safer and more rehabilitative environment in our juvenile halls and camps.”