THE WRAP: Used as punishment for youth in detention. Department of Human Services

Chad Day of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
will certainly win awards for his ongoing reporting of the treatment (mistreatment is more like it) of youth held in state detention facilities. His latest today is on the use of a medieval-seeming restraint device as punishment at the Yell County detention facility.

I wish the newspaper would liberate this article from the subscription protection so all could read it and pass it around for an object lesson of what adults can do to children. The description alone gives claustrophobic people like me the chills:


Staff members forced youths into The Wrap — hands cuffed behind their backs, legs strapped together, and chest immobilized by a harness and a strap connected to their feet. In some cases, guards placed a motorcycle helmet wrapped in duct tape over the youths’ heads, putting them in near total darkness.

The youths were often left sitting in the restraint device for two hours — at times in view of other youths, an experience several youths described to a state official as degrading and humiliating.

The photo of the device being demonstrated by an advocate for youths was obtained from the state by the newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act and I subsequently obtained my own copy. It speaks volumes

State officials plan further reviews of the Yell County facility based on the newspaper reporting. Other problems have been found. The state outsources youth detention to this and other facilities, some run by private operators. Had they looked at reports, as the Democrat-Gazette did, they might have noticed improper use of such restraints.


It is yet another warning lesson about outsourcing the state’s responsibility for difficult jobs to others. Humane treatment sometimes gets overlooked in the shuffle. Outsourcing of prisons is on the agenda of some legislators.

PS: Austin Kellerman at Fox 16 says the station posted the photo above on its Facebook page in reporting on restraint use by Youth Services several months ago and Facebook administrators removed the photo. Said it was too graphic.