Caged, Restrained and Forgotten

By Christopher R Rice

The names of the children in this article have been changed.

Eight year old Tammi, who has been diagnosed with autism, lives in a state-run institution for disabled children, along with more than 80 others, many of whom are locked in cells or cages.

Ronnie, who is eleven and has Down's syndrome, sleeps in a small cell separated from the other residents by ceiling-high wooden bars and a locked gate. His cell is furnished only with a single bed. There are no personal possessions in sight anywhere.

With barely six members of staff caring for more than 85 residents there is rarely an opportunity to leave.

During Underground Newz' investigation we witnessed: degrading living conditions, the deprivation of care and support, the use of sedating medication, children being strapped to their beds, the use of wooden cage-beds for children with learning disabilities and electronic surveillance.

There have been several deaths due to a lack of supervision. An 11-year-old died in January of 2016 after choking on an object she had accidentally swallowed. Three months later a 17-year-old died, the post-mortem examination revealed his stomach was full of pieces of fabric, thread and bandages.

Staffing levels make it impossible to protect the children from harm. Their solution was to have the cages custom built for the residents.

There is only one nurse and one assistant per floor responsible for more than 20 residents - there is no permanent doctor.

"If there are any medical problems with the children there is no one to ask for help except God," says a senior nurse.

She tells Underground Newz the cages were necessary. "We fought to have those caged beds built to give the children more freedom. Before that the residents were permanently tied by their arms and legs to their beds."

The disturbing images are the first photographic evidence of the restraint and seclusion used against autistic children in schools and hospitals across America.

The government promised years ago to make sure incidents like this stopped, but it didn't.
The practice still continues, and dozens of parents are beginning to come forward with similar experiences.

Underground Newz has spoken to other parents with autistic children and they also listed horrific incidents involving restraint, seclusion and 'lockups'.

Underground America Inc. is lodging a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on their behalves.


An analysis by ProPublica and NPR of data for the 2011-2012 school year of school discipline practices from the U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights Data Collection shows:
  • Restraint and seclusion were used at least 267,000 times nationwide. That includes 163,000 instances in which students were restrained. Mechanical restraints were used 7,600 of those times.
  • Schools reported that they placed children in seclusion rooms about 104,000 times.
  • In 75 percent of the cases, it was kids with disabilities who were restrained or secluded.

 A 2009 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan congressional investigative agency, counted at least 20 deaths.

One possible alternative to seclusion and restraint is the growing use of "positive behavioral intervention support." It uses positive reinforcements, instead of disciplinary ones — such as restraint and seclusion — to deal with students when they get upset or even violent.
The National Disabilities Rights Network in a January 2009 report (School is not Supposed to Hurt) revealed that the use of seclusion and restraint, which are often unregulated and used disproportionately on children with disabilities, frequently result in injury, trauma, and even death.

For more read: Scream Room

EDITORS NOTE: A political system that cannot protect its most defenseless citizens has lost any legitimacy it claimed to have had. America is morally bankrupt.

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