Though pepper spray has been viewed by some as a solution to violence in correctional facilities, it usually creates more problems than it solves. Staff come to rely on chemical agents in lieu of communicating with youngsters to defuse confrontational situations.Whitmire said that pepper spray would likely result in "fewer broken bones," but I think that's a skewed way to look at it. A better approach to reduce broken bones and pepper spray use would be to boost staffing ratios to 12-1 as required by new legislation. Understaffing is the key cause of increased violence and abuse at TYC.
Sen. Hinojosa opposed use of pepper spray on kids, declaring it was the "easy way out." He blamed a lack of training on the increase in violence.
I was surprised to hear Will Harrell also defending pepper spray use, citing an Aug. 2, 2007 memo to say it was a relatively small change. Someone happened to send me that memo this week, and it declares that authorized staff "are instructed to use OC spray prior to agency-approved methods of physical restraint." In other words, "Spray first, no matter what."
I think Will's dead wrong that's a minimalist change, and I wish he or other agency staff had raised the understaffing issue as a primary cause of increased injuries to staff and students. That was certainly the conclusion of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee's last interim report on the subject(p. 17), and nothing's changed since then. Now nobody's talking about understaffing as a source of increased violence, and even the liberals (except Hinojosa) say peppper spray is a good solution. I wonder why?