JDAI standards on the use of fixed restraints are being cited as model standards in a civil rights lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center over the use of handcuffs at an alternative school in Jackson, Mississippi.
The lawsuit, “A.M. v. Jackson Public Schools et al.,” was filed in June 2011. It accuses officials at the Capital City Alternative School in Jackson of routinely handcuffing and shackling students to railings and other fixed objects for hours as punishment for non-criminal infractions. The 25-page complaint uses direct language from “Moving Away from Hardware: The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Standards on Fixed Restraint” in describing how restraints “may evoke feelings of guilt, humiliation, embarrassment, hopelessness, powerlessness, fear and panic.”
Children “describe these events as punitive and aversive, leaving lingering psychological scars” and “report recurrent nightmares, intrusive thoughts, avoidance behaviors, enhanced startle response … even years after the event,” the complaint said, quoting the report.
The lead plaintiff is a 16-year-old boy with a history of asthma, attention-deficit disorder, and seizures. The complaint alleges that the boy was told on April 1 he could not go to class because he forgot his belt. School officials allegedly ordered the boy handcuffed when he protested. The boy spent the rest of the day handcuffed to a railing in the school gym, court documents said. The complaint says the restraint was repeated several more times over the course of the next week, for infractions such as not having a belt or not wearing the proper type of shoes.
“This is a wonderful application of the principles JDAI has supported for many years,” said Sue Burrell, the author of “Moving Away from Hardware.” “We have always known that youth can be safely and humanely handled without such intrusive restraint measures, and the JDAI standards discourage their use in juvenile facilities.”
“Moving Away from Hardware: The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Standards on Fixed Restraint” and the Southern Poverty Law Center complaint are available on the JDAI Help Desk.