The contemporary dangers of restraint use on societally devalued children and adults

I ran across two fairly recent articles (here and here) and reports (here and here) which speak to the human service use of restraints and the heightened vulnerability of societally devalued children and adults. Restraints can be physical, mechanical, and/or chemical, and are often used in conjunction with ‘seclusion.’

One of the dangerous patterns reported in these articles is that parents are often not told about the use of restraints on their child, and relatedly that the most basic statistics on restraint use are not (made) available to the public. This is another sad illustration of the lesson which Dr. Wolfensberger so often taught, that violence is often hidden away, covered up, disguised or made to seem positive (detoxification), and/or lied about (deception). For more on this issue, check this website.

As often happens in such reporting, both articles mention the specter and the prevalence of violence carried out by human service recipients, but little attention or none is paid to violence carried out by staff, the reality of structural violence (here and here), the reality of life-long wounding and devaluation which may drive a human service recipient toward violence (as is taught in Social Role Valorization), and so on.

This article on restraint use is available on our SRVIP website. A group in Ontario, Canada called Citizens Against Restraint (here and here) also has relevant information on this human service practice. Many members of Citizens Against Restraint are informed by Social Role Valorization (SRV).

Related to this human service practice of restraint, Social Role Valorization teaches us, among other things, to pay attention to:

• the reality and processes of social and societal devaluation

• heightened vulnerability

• dehumanization

• the devalued role of menace

• distantiation, segregation and congregation

• deathmaking

• the mindsets and expectations of staff and family, etc.

I have only touched on a few points from SRV relevant to the all-too-common contemporary practice of restraints in human services. Much more study of SRV, and application of its ideas, is warranted.

Marc Tumeinski

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  1. Written by Ed Burke
    on April 15, 2013 at 11:44 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    The worst example of this continues at what is now called the Judge Rotenburg Center in Canton, MA (formerly the Behavior Research Institute in Providence, RI). For over 40 years this place has embraced a nightmarish version of Skinner’s raw behaviorism, with punishment at its core. At first, the punishments were actions like slaps, pinches and other physical violence. Then it graduated to include pepper sprays to the face, a version of “water boarding,” and electric shock. They have even gotten FDA approval for their invented torture machines. People have died, been injured, and psychologically destroyed for life, all at a cost of about $200,000/person/year. In spite of multiple exposes, court cases, license revocations, etc., they remain in business to this day.

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