Juvenile detainees locked in controversial device ‘when verbal deescalation is not working’

Scott Tanner, Juvenile Detention Ombudsman, experiences the WRAP restraint system in the Yell County Juvenile Detention Center in Danville, AR. (Photos obtained via Freedom of Information Act.)
Scott Tanner, Juvenile Detention Ombudsman, experiences the WRAP restraint system in the Yell County Juvenile Detention Center in Danville, AR. (Photos obtained via Freedom of Information Act.)
Scott Tanner, Juvenile Detention Ombudsman, experiences the WRAP restraint system in the Yell County Juvenile Detention Center in Danville, AR. (Photos obtained via Freedom of Information Act.)

ARKANSAS — Juvenile detention facilities across the state are coming under fire for using a disturbing restraint device that some are calling “torture.”

The device is known as the “WRAP” system. According to state officials, the device is used to restrain minor detainees “when verbal deescalation is not working” — sometimes for hours on end.

The system involves binding a child’s arms and legs together using straps and handcuffs, and sometimes involves shrouding the child’s face with a hood or a helmet.

Photos from the Yell County Juvenile Detention Center in Danville, Arkansas, have raised eyebrows following their exposure through a FOIA request. Questions are being raised about whether the treatment is ethical or humane.

The Danville facility has been shown to strap detainees with a mask which appears to be covered with duct tape and decorated as a cartoonish, dehumanizing cross-eyed effigy.

Scott Tanner, Juvenile Detention Ombudsman, experiences the WRAP restraint system in the Yell County Juvenile Detention Center in Danville, AR. (Photos obtained via Freedom of Information Act.)
Scott Tanner, Juvenile Detention Ombudsman, experiences the WRAP restraint system in the Yell County Juvenile Detention Center in Danville, AR. (Photos obtained via Freedom of Information Act.)

State Juvenile Ombudsman Scott Tanner was sent to investigate the device, and tested it himself. He reported that “the WRAP caused difficulty breathing and increased anxiety. He also says it presents a risk for head injury and violates state standards, which say any placement of juveniles must be therapeutic and not punitive.”

Tanner said that the treatment was humiliating and traumatizing, as it was done in front of other detainees.

His report continued: “I believe the manner in which the WRAP restraint is being used in your center creates significant liability. This is magnified by deficiencies in both policy and documentation. Based on my own experience in this restraint and interviews of youth similarly restrained, it is my opinion that the use of the WRAP restraint on youth is inappropriate.”

“It is torture. This should not happen to kids,” the ombudsman said in an interview.

Following the official report on the device, the Arkansas Department of Human Services and the Division of Youth Services sent a cease and desist letter to Yell County.

The WRAP system is used across the state, including Washington, Yell, and Benton Counties. So far each of the counties is resisting the calls to abandon the controversial practice, defending the system as a necessary tool to deal with unruly children who might hurt themselves.

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