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California Considering Changes To Juvenile Hall Practices

Michael Coghlan / Flickr

Michael Coghlan / Flickr

The state of California is considering changes to the minimum standards used for county juvenile halls.

Advocates want the facilities to stop using pepper spray and leg shackles, among other changes for the inmates.

Israel Villa is with MILPA, a racial equality and social justice organization in Salinas. He said the group is in Sacramento this week to push for criminal justice reform, something they've done for the past couple of years.

"It does feel like relationships are being built and it does feel like our voice is being heard," Villa said. "We may not get all the wins that we may like, but there have been some significant changes and some significant wins since we've been coming up here."

Among potential wins are changes regarding the use of chemical deterrents.

David Steinhart sits on the board that will eventually approve any changes. He said they're not suggesting an all out ban on pepper spray, but rather when and how to use it.

"Now, there are advocates — and really, I'm among them — who feel that we should go farther," he said. "But this is just my personal opinion, I think that broad, statewide policy change is something that should be done by the state legislature, not by the facility regulators."

The Board of State and Community Corrections will vote on this week's suggested changes in February, but one more step is required, before being finalized.

Other issues under consideration include vegetarian meal options for inmates, and an increased staff-to-youth ratio.

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