- Associated Press - Sunday, October 12, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas’ Division of Youth Services has asked that juvenile detention centers in Benton, Washington and Sebastian counties stop using a device known as “The Wrap” that handcuffs disruptive children and immobilizes their legs.

The requests, in letters sent Friday, come after DYS ordered the Yell County Juvenile Detention Center in Danville to stop using the device to restrain children in a way that division Director Tracy Steele called “potentially dangerous” and said “exposes the youth to ridicule and humiliation.”

Staff at the Yell County center, which does have a DYS contract, also placed a motorcycle helmet covered in duct tape on the heads of the youths and left them sitting for up to two hours, Steele wrote.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports (https://bit.ly/ZUwZKB) that the requests to the Benton, Washington and Sebastian County centers do not have to be honored because they have no contract with DYS.

“(The Youth Services Division), as the administrative agency over the youth services system in the state, has a keen interest in ensuring all system-involved youth are receiving safe and appropriate care, including in response to disruptive conduct,” Steele wrote.

Officials with the Benton and Washington County centers said they plan to continue using The Wrap until a new method of subduing disruptive youths - or different forms of training - are developed, while an official with the Sebastian County center said the device is no longer used there.

Jean Mack, director of the Washington County center, said the facility began using The Wrap in the 1990s after officials researched different methods to deal with combative children.

At the time, staff members were trained to physically hold the child while using “therapeutic talk,” a method that sometimes resulted in injuries to staff or children, she said.

With The Wrap, Mack said, staff found they could more quickly de-escalate a situation, adding that she is open to discussion and change.

“But I will need to be offered a recourse,” she said. “When you have a really combative individual, we have to have some means to keep them safe and keep the staff safe.”

Denyse Collins, director of the Benton County facility also supported use of the device.

“We have not improperly used The Wrap. No one has been injured in our use,” she said. “We don’t use it on a routine basis. We don’t use it as punishment. We use it when a kid’s life is in danger as the last resort,” Collins said.

Both Mack and Collins said a helmet with duct tape is not used at their facilities.

The three facilities have passed their annual inspections, said Danny Hickman, the state coordinator of the state Criminal Detention Facilities Review committees.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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