Federal authorities are investigating whether pepper spray has been used illegally on youths housed at two of Nevada’s most secure juvenile facilities. The Justice Department opened a probe of the use of “chemical restraint” at Summit View Youth Center outside Las Vegas and the Nevada Youth Training Center near Elko, the Associated Press reports. Both facilities are run by the state Division of Child and Family Services. Staff are trained in the use of pepper spray under the division’s use-of-force policies, which were updated last July, said social services chief Karla Delgado.
Under the policy, pepper spray can be used for justifiable self-defense, to protect a young person from hurting themselves or others, to stop “significant property damage” or an escape, to quell a riot or “substantial disturbance, or “to overcome the physical resistance of a youth for failing to comply with a reasonable directive by staff.” Staff are required to issue warnings and exhaust “all other measures” before using pepper spray, and a review is done every time it’s deployed, Delgado said. The youth training center is funded to house 60 juveniles. Summit View is a maximum-security facility with 48 beds. A 2001 Justice Department investigation found “prevalent” excessive use of force by Nevada Youth Training Center staff.