COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Department of Youth Services will outfit guards at detention centers with body cameras and pepper spray.

The new policy, announced Friday, follows a rash of disturbances and assaults inside the centers.

In a letter to department staff, director Amy Ast said pepper spray is safer than physical restraint and will lead to fewer injuries to staff and juveniles, The Columbus Dispatch reported Monday. She also predicted it would lead to more compliance by juveniles, resulting in their release dates not being extended.

Ast also noted that the pepper spray won’t replace current research-backed strategies: mentorship, behavioral health interventions and relationship building.

The union that presents juvenile corrections officers has advocated for them to be equipped with pepper spray. But Ohio Public Defender Timothy Young, whose law office represents most of the incarcerated youth, told the newspaper that he has deep concerns about deploying pepper spray inside juvenile facilities.

“DYS is in the position of parenting the children in their custody. If any parent pepper sprayed their child, they would rightfully be investigated and likely charged with child abuse,” Young said. “Studies show children are at increased risk for neurological and respiratory damage from pepper spray.”

The department will also outfit officers with body cameras, starting with Indian River Juvenile Correctional Facility in Stark County. Indian River has been the focal point of two disturbances and multiple staff assaults in recent weeks.