State Urges Arkansas Juvenile Detention to Stop Using WRAP Restraint

Published 10/09 2014 08:19PM

Updated 10/09 2014 08:26PM

Scott Tanner, Juvenile Dentention Ombudsman, experiences the WRAP restraint system in the Yell County Juvenile Detention Center in Danville. (Photos obtained via Freedom of Information Act.)
Scott Tanner, Juvenile Dentention Ombudsman, experiences the WRAP restraint system in the Yell County Juvenile Detention Center in Danville. (Photos obtained via Freedom of Information Act.)
YELL COUNTY, Ark. -- The State of Arkansas is cracking down on a restraint mechanism some juvenile detainees call "torture." It's known as the WRAP system. According to the state, the Yell County Juvenile Detention Center used it to restrain minors at its facility for up to four hours at a time.

State Juvenile Ombudsman Scott Tanner investigates complaints within the juvenile detention system. He says several youths housed in the Yell County facility voiced concern about the WRAP, so he went to Danville to experience it himself. That's him in the photo, which was taken in September.

In his report that followed, Tanner says 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.

In the report, Tanner also mentions his interviews with juvenile detainees. He says their descriptions of the WRAP were consistent: "It is torture. This should not happen to kids." Tanner says the juveniles told him the restraint was additionally humiliating and traumatizing because they were restrained in the wrap in front of other detainees.

Tanner writes the following in his report, filed September 18: "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."

Tanner requests Yell County ban the WRAP and asks that DHS prohibit it across the state. In the report, he also mentions that Yell County needs to revise its policies and procedures surrounding situations where a juvenile may be a danger to themselves or others.

Following that report, the Arkansas Department of Human Services and the Division of Youth Services sent a cease and desist letter to Yell County. In that letter, dated September 29, DHS calls the WRAP "highly controversial and potentially dangerous" and directs Yell County to stop all use of the WRAP immediately. It also asks that Yell County provide a "corrective action plan" within 30 days to address state code violations and to ensure it complies completely with state juvenile detention standards.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, KARK obtained documents showing the Yell County sheriff has instructed his staff to comply with the state.

Tanner says juvenile detention centers in Benton and Washington Counties also use a variation of the WRAP, but he says they both use a different helmet and only use the WRAP as a last resort in extreme situations. KARK reached out to both of those facilities to learn more, but have not yet heard back.



(courtesy KARK, Little Rock)

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