Incarcerated teenagers in the Texas Youth Commission system are getting pepper-sprayed by guards when they refuse to follow routine orders and while on suicide watch, not just when they pose a threat, says the Austin American-Statesman. Court testimony by corrections expert Steve Martin, who based his account on a review of Youth Commission records, provided the first public detail about what critics say is an escalation in the use of chemical restraints inside state-run youth lockups.
A judge ordered Youth Commission officials and attorneys for two youth advocacy groups that have sued the agency to reach agreement by Wednesday on a policy for when to use the spray, something they have been unable to do for weeks. So far this year, just over 1,200 reports of spraying have been logged, compared with only 196 last year. The Youth Commission holds about 2,900 youths. “Those numbers are stunning,” said Barry Krisberg, president of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. “Nobody is going this direction. Everybody is going the other direction  You’re only going to get angrier, more alienated youths when you do this.” The board chairman of one group that sued said, “This is tremendously disturbing. It should not be happening.”