Wards of Juvenile Hall in Santa Clara County must be on their best behavior in order to avoid a new weapon guards will be granted: pepper spray.
The addition of pepper spray to the arsenal of guards at juvie is not sitting well with child welfare advocates, according to the San Jose Mercury News. It wasn't announced publicly or debated at meetings, instead included in the new contract for the guards' union in January, the newspaper reported.
Union leaders said that pepper spray is exactly the kind of weapon needed against "much more violent" offenders that they have to somehow control, according to the newspaper. What's more, most other "youth holding facilities" in California have pepper spray, according to union president Mark Murray, so why not here?
Pepper spray will allow wards at juvenile hall to break up fights of "six to eight kids fighting at once" with smaller risk of injury, according to the newspaper.
Under the new rules, pepper spray wouldn't be carried around at all times by wards, but would be locked up and used only in the case of an emergency.
Nonetheless, advocates are furious, saying that giving wards the option to spray down unruly kids goes against the rehabilitation mission of Juvenile Hall. And they also say that giving guards pepper spray without public input was a sneaky move.