Last year, as President Trump undertook a crackdown on undocumented immigrants, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) quietly authorized a new list of physical restraint devices for use on detainees. TYT previously reported that one of the devices had been used in fatal incidents involving people detained by law enforcement, but the full list has not been public until now.
The list, entitled “Authorized Restraint Devices,” was obtained by TYT under the Freedom of Information Act. The document, distributed internally by ICE’s Office of Firearms and Tactical Programs (OFTP) on September 18, 2017, lists the restraining devices authorized under the new guidelines.
The document is broken down into three parts: “Metallic Handcuffs,” “Flexible Restraints” and “Miscellaneous Restraints & Safety Related Equipment.” While the document notes that OFTP only approves the use of metallic handcuffs that meet the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) minimum performance standards, none of its miscellaneous restraints or flexible restraints has been assigned minimum performance standards from the institute.
The NIJ is the Justice Department’s research, development and evaluation branch, whose responsibilities include evaluating safety considerations or hazards regarding restraints used by law enforcement. According to the document, OFTP instead relied on its own standards for both the Flexible Restraints and Miscellaneous Restraints.
The latter section includes seemingly exotic devices: Gang belts, belly chains, transport hoods, oversized leg irons, and locking leg weights. The document also lists the manufacturer of each device (the transport hood, marketed as TranZport Hood, is made by the oddly-named “Safariland”).
These restraints are not without risks. The hood, for instance, is marketed as a device to prevent detainees from biting or spitting. As one website that sells transport hoods warns, “The TranZport Hood should not be used on any person who is unconscious, vomiting, in respiratory distress, or in obvious need of medical attention. Anyone wearing a hood should be under the constant supervision of responsible parties.”
One of the devices listed, “The Wrap,” is a controversial full-body restraining device. TYT reported in August on ICE’s purchase of the device. The Wrap reportedly has been implicated in multiple deaths, although its liability has not been established in court. (Its manufacturer, Safe Restraints Inc., says that the device has not caused any deaths or injuries.)
Human rights attorney Jessica Sloan, who serves as National Director for Dream Corps’ anti-mass incarceration program, #Cut50, expressed skepticism about ICE’s new restraining devices.
“Cuffing women who are pregnant, shackling them, that’s just going to lead to more trauma. There are plenty of models all around the world that show us that people can still be restrained but not in all these inhumane ways. Sweden, Norway, European countries have figured out how to both get people the help that they need but also to have a healthy and safe custody environment. This [our current system] seems like the least intelligent option.”
In July, BuzzFeed News reported that pregnant women in immigration detention had miscarried after being shackled around the stomach. The ICE document obtained by TYT includes “belly chains.”
“Look at Sweden, even in their max security prisons their people are not restrained, they’re talked to like human beings, they get counseling, so that they can succeed when they get out,” Sloan said. “When you start treating a person with dignity and respect they start respecting themselves.”
Even wrist restraints, of which the ICE document listed several, can be not just dangerous but inhumane, according to Sloan.
“Wrist restraints—it is dangerous but also it’s a basic lack of dignity. I’ve heard testimony from women who were shackled and when they had to go to the bathroom when in transport, they were unable to even wipe themselves. They had to wipe each other.”
“It’s overall breaking people down and stripping them of their basic human dignity.”
The document, some portions of which are redacted, notes that “these guidelines supersede the Authorized Restraint Devices Guidelines issued prior.” Although TYT’s FOIA request was for both the current and previous guidelines, ICE only provided the current ones. When TYT contacted ICE for clarification on which specific restraint devices listed in the current guidelines were new, Jennifer Elzea, ICE’s press secretary, declined to comment.