Federal prisons in USA want to increase use of restraints

An article published on The Hill has indicated that the Bureau of Prisons in the USA plans to propose a new rule to increase the use of restraints. This would involve “securing an inmate to a fixed object to facilitate participation in education, treatment, recreation, or religious programs”. It was also announced that by increasing the use of restraints in order to facilitate programming, it would no longer be considered a use of force.

Although at face-value the intentions of this are good, as they are promoting education and extra-curricular activities, groups such as the ACLU have spoken out on the worrying implications of this; largely that if restraints aren’t considered a use of force, the use of it will require little documentation which could lead to over or improper use of the practice.

Restraints commonly used to facilitate education training include chaining prisoners’ hands to the top of the desk, with their ankles cuffed to an iron bar at the bottom.  The report highlighted that these restraint desks are being used more and more in US prisons. This could be seen to be in contradiction to the Mandela Rule 47, which prohibits the use of chains, irons or other instruments of restraint which are inherently degrading or painful.

The justification for this rule change is to lessen the use of solitary confinement, which is a big problem in the USA; in 2016 67,000 prisoners spent time in solitary confinement. Prisoners Abroad has heard accounts of the use of solitary confinement, both in the US and more widely, and it remains a source of concern for us due to the effects it can have on a prisoner.

Mistreatment in general and solitary confinement in particular can have detrimental effects on prisoners’ mental health and well-being. We attempt to combat this by delivering books, newsletters and language dictionaries in order to keep the mind active. Additionally our pen-pal service can reduce our service users’ isolation and help to restore a sense of belonging.


Read more about solitary confinement, including personal experiences of its use in the USA.

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