Minnesota’s Office of the Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities has issued a blistering, 200-page report titled “Just Plain Wrong” detailing excessive and routine use of restraints, including metal handcuffs and ankle-binding devices, at Minnesota Extended Treatment Options (METO), a state facility for the developmentally disabled adults in Cambridge, Minn. Staffers reportedly put one METO resident in restraints more than 500 times in two years, including for offenses as minor as “touching the pizza box.” The state ombudsman wrote:
” [R]estraints should only be used as a tool of last resort — only when there is immediate risk of harm and only for the time needed to abate that risk.”
That comment uncannily echoes the concerns of Amnesty International about police treatment of protesters at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, where plastic handcuffs were the order of the day(s):
[P]olice actions appear to have breached United Nations (U.N.) standards on the use of force by law enforcement officials. These stipulate, among other things, that force should be used only as a last resort, in proportion to the threat posed, and should be designed to minimize damage or injury.
Shannon Williams, who owns and operates Public Health Solutions, a metro-area corporate provider of community-based foster care for adults with disabilities, tells the Minnesota Independent that state rules strictly regulate and closely monitor any use of restraints by companies like hers. At state-run facilities like METO — a place that Williams acknowledges shelters the “toughest” client population — regulating restraint practices is a matter of “the state watching the state.”
Though it was many months in the making, “Just Plain Wrong” demonstrates that the state has, in fact, been watching itself. METO says it stopped routine use of handcuffs and other restraints last spring.