A committee made sweeping recommendations on the use of pepper spray, shackling, visitation rights and vegetarian meal options for incarcerated youths.
“This time around was historic; we are advocating for changes that have never been addressed before,” said Israel Villa, a formerly incarcerated youth and program and policy coordinator for Motivating Individual Leadership for Public Advancement.
The Executive Steering Committee of the State Board of State and Community Corrections held a panel with youth advocates in November in preparation for a Feb. 8 meeting, when the full board will vote on revising statewide regulations for incarcerated youth.
“Executive Steering Committee meetings are designed to provide direction and…identifying critical issues, providing direction to workgroups that propose revisions and making a final recommendation to the full board,” the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange reported.
The executive committee recommended the following:
Facilities must document the use of pepper spray on youth.
This requirement is a step in the right direction but using pepper spray should not be tolerated, said Sara Kruzan, a formerly incarcerated youth and program coordinator at Healing Dialogue and Action.
New regulations would require individualized assessment before the use of shackles on young detainees.
“I’m concerned about who will be making that discretion regarding shackles and why we are still OK with shackles being used on our youth,” said Kruzan.
Facilities should be required to process requests for vegetarian meals
Supportive adults should not be barred from visiting incarcerated youth because of adults’ conviction history.
These regulations should guide facilities to treat youth in a trauma-informed manner, rather than with a punitive approach, said Kruzan.
“In my case, my trauma was never acknowledged, and the phrase ‘child sex-trafficking survivor’ was never used. No one knew how to handle me, so I was criminalized.”