Each quarter, the San Diego County Probation Department compiles statistics on so-called “serious incidents” at the five juvenile-detention facilities under its command. The numbers, which are provided to the county’s Juvenile Justice Commission, illustrate the levels of violence at the facility, including data on assaults, pepper-spray use and staff misconduct.
CityBeat obtained the latest batch of figures through a California Public Records Act request. Among the highlights:
• Probation experienced a spike in the number of juvenile detainees who needed to be transported to hospitals and psychiatric facilities. In the first six months of 2012, 26 youth fit that category, compared with just 12 over the same period in 2011.
• Probation continues to use Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) spray, better known as pepper spray, on youth with great frequency. In May, CityBeat reported that probation recorded 461 incidents involving pepper spray in 2011. So far this year, probation has used OC spray 234 times. The Kearny Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility saw a 60-percent increase in OC spray incidents this year, from 53 incidents in the first six months of 2011 to 84 incidents so far in 2012.
• Probation documented one instance of “criminal conduct by staff/contract staff” in June 2012 at the East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility. It’s the only staff criminal case reported in the last 18 months. No further details were released; however, the criteria for this category covers allegations of sexual abuse, physical assault, neglect and any criminal act that jeopardizes a juvenile’s safety, such as driving while drunk with a juvenile detainee in the vehicle.
Sarah Gordon, the county spokesperson who handles public-safety issues, didn’t respond to multiple requests for more information about the hospitalizations and staff misconduct.
A spokesperson for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office told CityBeat that the case has not been referred for prosecution. Jan Caldwell, spokesperson for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, which is charged with investigating abuse at the East Mesa facility, said that Gordon told her the case had been referred to the sheriff. However, Caldwell could not formally confirm the case had been transferred. “These types of investigations,” she said, are confidential, and only the investigating unit has access to the files.
In previous reporting, CityBeat found that the Probation Department had used a similar cloak of confidentiality to explain why it withheld information from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding allegations of sexual abuse of juveniles by staff.