Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law

Use of Five-Point Restraints on Inmates for 46-48 Hours without Procedural Checks Ruled Unconstitutional

Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law

Use of Five-Point Restraints on Inmates for 46-48 Hours without Procedural Checks Ruled Unconstitutional

Article excerpt

Incarcerated individuals with a mental illness may be particularly prone to engage in disruptive behavior. When an inmate engages in disruptive behavior, correctional officials may respond in various ways. They may reduce the inmate's privileges, place the inmate in isolation or segregation, or employ four- or five-point restraints to subdue the individual. Under Virginia state policy, an inmate who tried to escape or demonstrated violent or unmanageable behavior could be positioned face up on a bed with leather straps applied to the wrists, ankles, and across the chest for up to forty-eight hours if initial approval had been provided by the Warden or Administrative Duty Officer. This policy was challenged by an inmate who had been placed in five-point restraints for 46-48 hours on five occasions (six to nine meal and restroom breaks were provided each time).

A federal judge in Virginia held that placing state prisoners in five-point restraints for such lengthy periods of time without procedural protections constituted a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of the use of excessive force on incarcerated individuals. Noting that there were generally significant passages of time between the disruptive behavior and the use of the restraints, the court reasoned that this length of time in restraints was not necessary to "control" the inmate. …

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