Home All Articles News NewsPepper spray use declines, D.A. investigates misconduct at juvenile hall
Dec. 5 2012 10:33 AM

An update in our ongoing series on violence and sexual abuse at San Diego County detention facilities

Photo courtesy of SDC Probation Department

The District Attorneys office is reviewing an allegation of criminal sexual misconduct by a staff member at a juvenile-hall facility following an investigation by the San Diego County Sheriffs Department.

The incident, which occurred in June, arose from a juveniles allegation that a staff member at the East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility got too close to him, resulting in inappropriate genital contact by the staff to the minors back. The unidentified employee has been transferred to a division that does not deal with minors, pending completion of the case, according to a county staffer with knowledge of the case who asked not to be named.

Its at least the seventh allegation of sexual misconduct lodged against staff since 2008. The San Diego County Probation Department operates five regional facilities: East Mesa, Kearny Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility, Girls Rehabilitation Facility, Juvenile Ranch Facility and Camp Barrett.

CityBeat has been covering abuse in San Diego Countys juvenile halls all year, beginning with a January investigation that found probation staff failed to report allegations of sexual abuse to a federal agency charged with collecting prisonrape data. Were also tracking violence in juvenile hall, specifically the use of pepper spray, also called OC, on minors. A May investigative report found that San Diego was not only of one of the few jurisdictions to use the chemical restraint on juveniles, but also that staff deployed OC on an exceptionally frequent basis.

Statistics released by probation in October indicate a new, downward trend, with pepper-spray incidents dropping by almost 16 percent across the countys juvenile facilities this year. However, the facilities are still averaging more than one spraying per day, with 335 OC incidents recorded in the first 10 months of 2012 compared with 398 during the same period in 2011.

Group fights, or serious acts of violence that involve three or more youth, have dropped by a third, with 106 incidents compared to 160 incidents a year ago.

Not all the numbers are improving. Violence against staff members have doubled this year, with 21 assaults on staff versus 11 the year before. Six staff members were injured to the point of requiring medical attention compared with two injuries in 2011. August was the most violent month of the year, with 20 group fights, 14 assaults on minors and 41 OC spray incidents.

Attempted suicides are also on the rise, with 11 attempts recorded in 2012, compared with eight in 2011. None have been successful.

Email davem@sdcitybeat.com or follow him on Twitter @DaveMaass.


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