Ending The Use Of Punitive Restraints in Colorado Prisons

Criminal Justice
ACLU Case No. 2011-03


After months of collaboration and negotiation with ACLU lawyers, the Colorado Department of Corrections agreed to end the use of punitive restraints on non-violent, compliant inmates. These restraints include not only hand and ankle cuffs, but also torso and between-the-legs chains that severely restrict a prisoner’s movement. Prior to our negotiations, DOC policy permitted prison staff to use these restraints on non-violent, compliant inmates who were already locked safely in an isolation cell for extended lengths of time (over 12 hours). The purpose was not to gain compliance from inmates who posed a threat, but rather to physically punish inmates for previous behavior.

Upon hearing from prisoners, some of whom had been shackled in this manner for over 14 hours, unable to eat, sit or lie down without extreme pain, or go to the bathroom without assistance, the ACLU raised concerns about the constitutionality of the practice with DOC officials. Several meeting followed, during which ACLU lawyers suggested revisions to the specific prison rules, known Administrative Regulations, which govern the use of full body restraints. AR 300-56 now clearly forbids the use of these restraints to punish compliant inmates. In addition to the revised policy, DOC will also conduct new training for all staff members authorized to use the restraints.


Mark Silverstein , ACLU of Colorado Legal Director
Rebecca Wallace , ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney

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