Youth prisons move close to ban on pepper spray, limits on harmful tactics

Youth prisons thumbnail 4/10/24
Posted at 12:43 PM, Apr 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-11 13:43:07-04

MADISON, Wis. — The Department of Corrections is moving closer to banning the use of pepper spray in youth prisons and changing its tactics to limit the use of restraints and strip searches for minors.

The proposed rule discussed in a committee hearing on Wednesday was written to comply with a court settlement made nearly six years ago when the department was sued over allegations that it had overused harmful tactics against children.

Deputy Secretary Jared Hoy, who oversees the department’s daily operations, told lawmakers it’s taken time to train guards to use other tactics and get used to not having pepper spray, also known as OC spray, at their disposal.

“Whether you agree with the tools or disagree, you take away an OC spray, you have to have something in place to give staff,” he said.

Wisconsin’s youth prisons are now using verbal de-escalation programs that are also used in schools. The rule would also allow guards to use body scans instead of strip searches.

“We see and observe staff feeling safer and engaging with youth more since these changes have come into place,” Hoy said.

Gov. Tony Evers approved the proposed changes in February. If there are no objections from lawmakers, the rule is expected to go into effect in the coming months.