There were 18 incidents involving the use of pepper spray from December through February, compared with 46 the previous three months, the report said.
“There remains a need to focus on staff de-escalation training and skills development as well as a need to improve the overall atmosphere and culture of the environment in order to reduce incidents of violence,” the independent monitor, Teresa Abreu, wrote. “Merely reducing or modifying the intervention protocols for these types of incidents is not a sufficient response.”
Abreu is an attorney and prison consultant who previously helped run a juvenile detention center in Cook County, Illinois.
She also found that prison guards continue to work 16-hour days and are not promptly responding to inmates’ calls for help, a delay that led to the inmate suffering brain damage. She reported that the use of shackles and solitary confinement is down, but still continues. Prison guards also began strip searching inmates without cause in January, the report found. A memo was sent to prison staff in March telling them to only conduct strip searches when there’s just cause.
“It’s good to see some progress, but we are concerned that (prison) staff are backsliding in use of strip searches, which can be very traumatizing for youth — many of whom have been victims of sexual abuse and other trauma,” said Karen U. Lindell, senior attorney at Juvenile Law Center. “We also need better data collection to detail what is happening in the facilities.”