DVIDS photo by Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas Sperduto U.S. Coast Guard District 1

GAO: 56 of 73 Prison Officials Believe Pepper Spray Should be Used in Minimum Security Facilities

In September 2018, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) decided it would not use pepper spray at minimum security prisons, but did not document a reason. BOP officials said it was likely because of public perception, and because minimum security inmates are usually nonviolent offenders. Pepper spray can be used in prisons to control incidents that could lead to injuries or deaths of workers and inmates. It costs $7-14 per can plus additional costs for training on its use.

BOP first issued pepper spray to employees in high security prisons in August 2012 and to medium, low, and administrative security prisons in subsequent years. 

Despite BOP’s earlier statement that minimum security inmates are usually nonviolent offenders, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review found 47 reported incidents that included assaults on staff and other inmates across BOP’s seven minimum security prisons in 2018. In addition, 56 of 73 officials GAO interviewed said pepper spray should be expanded to minimum security prisons. 

BOP officials told GAO they were not aware of an analysis of incident data or other information to support its decision but said that the decision remains appropriate. GAO recommends that BOP conduct an analysis to determine if its decision to not issue pepper spray to minimum security prisons should remain in effect. The Department of Justice concurred with the recommendation.

Read the full report at GAO

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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