The traditional hard restraint chair has been used since the beginning of my career at the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office in 2013. The purpose of the restraint chair is to protect combative and physically non-compliant inmates from themselves and staff. The chair also serves as a device for de-escalation, and we use it for transportation to court. In rare cases, we place suicidal inmates in the chair for their own protection.
During the five years I’ve worked with this device, officers are the only one’s who actually sustain injuries during the application and use of this device. The device itself, although very safe, has many rigid surfaces that can cause low levels of damage if struck with sufficient force. Most of the injuries I’ve witness during the use of the restraint chair are from the inmates efforts to resist being fixed into the chair. Inmates regularly punch, kick and otherwise flail their body in efforts to resist and sometimes staff get struck and sustain an injury.
The restraint chair is a useful tool in the certain situations, but it is not perfect. Specifically, when an inmate refuses to calm down or is otherwise unable to communicate with a staff member, the chair can be a clumsy tool to try and use on short notice. Especially with the potential of staff members to injure themselves using the chair on a uncooperative inmate. So, in 2018 I was able to introduce a new piece of equipment call the WRAP Restraint Device.
This device is made entirely of soft material and has no hard edges. The best part of this device is that it is only applied to the inmate once he or she is in the prone position and cuffed. It is designed to “take the fight” out of the inmate. WRAP starts with an ankle strap placed on the inmate. Then, a leg piece is attached. The leg piece itself attaches another hip restraint and again attaches to restraints around the calves. A chest harness is placed over the inmate’s torso and attached to the leg piece, which allows the inmate to sit up without aid. Once the chest piece is placed on the inmate they are placed in an upright position. This allows the inmate to breath easily without risk of positional asphyxia.
The WARP comes with a mobile cart the inmate is placed into for transportation. The inmate must be completely secure in the WRAP Restraint device before being placed into the cart. The inmates are then taken to medical where their vital signs are checked and logged. At medical, the WARP restraints are again checked for tightness and security. After the initial check they are then checked every 15 minutes by both Medical and Deputies. Since instituting this new device our staff injuries have decreased significantly.
This device allows the inmate to be transported in a vehicle, walked around the booking floor, and checked by medical. We also have a couple units that are placed with our Patrol supervisors’ vehicles for use on the road. If an inmate is brought in from the road in this device they MUST be given a chance to comply by detention staff before being placed back into it.
In 2020, I was able to convert one of our holding cells into a padded cell. This padded cell works in conjunction with the WRAP Restraint Device as a secondary de-escalation tool. An inmate is initially placed in the WRAP, but then removed from the WRAP after a period of compliance. The inmate can then be placed in the padded cell for another “cool down” period prior to being moved back to their housing location. This is the time when it is crucial for deputies to have positive communication with the inmate.
With any restraint device it is imperative that policies, procedures, and de-escalation tools are used and followed precisely for the safety of each and every inmate under our care. In our agency this is considered a Use of Force and must be documented and reviewed. These are tools used to gain compliance and to keep inmates safe while in our custody and care. They are NEVER to be used for punishment.