When Alma Barillas last visited her son at Ventura youth prison, she expected to spend a few hours with Alejandro, who has been locked up for two years. She didn't expect to be pepper sprayed by guards. But that's exactly what happened.
A fight broke out in the visiting hall, and Alma tried to hold her son back. Despite the presence of children as young as four nearby, a prison guard sprayed them both with pepper spray. Alma ended up being taken to the doctor at the youth prison because she had trouble breathing and her vision was severely impaired.
Alma now suffers from nightmares and deep depression. She has not been back to visit her son since. Not only is she afraid of being pepper sprayed again, but the glimpse she got of the violence youth face every day makes her fearful for the safety of her son and all the youth in DJJ’s “care.” If the prison guards openly abuse visitors this way, what happens to our youth behind closed doors?
Demand that the Division of Juvenile Justice:
- Immediately ban pepper spray at visiting
- Commit to banning pepper spray altogether at the youth prisons
- Pay for therapy for Alma
- Issue an apology
Our families should feel safe when they are visiting their loved ones.