Some S.C. jails also use restraint chairs; others don’t

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comNovember 30, 2013 

The York County Detention Center isn’t alone in its use of restraint chairs to control disruptive and violent inmates, but not all jails use them.

Guards at the Spartanburg County Detention Center don’t use restraint chairs, said Major Neal Urch, operations director for the jail, but for years they have used other measures to deal with unruly inmates.

“I’m not saying they’re good or bad,” Urch said of restraint chairs. “If someone is verbally noncompliant ... if you can control that with your verbal commands ... and the person complies with that, nothing else is needed.

“If they are passively non-compliant and, if it escalates, we have to escalate with that use of force.”

“Use of force” in Spartanburg might include guards employing pepper spray and Tasers, he said, but not a restraint chair.

The Spartanburg detention center has not used restraint chairs for several years, Urch said. When he became director of operations nearly three years ago, he read several studies and decided he did not want to “re-implement” their use.

“I don’t think we miss it here,” he said. “If you take an oath and part of that oath is that you’ll serve the whole citizenry, that citizenry includes folks who have gotten themselves in a spot.”

Jailers at the Greenville County Detention Center do their best to calm violent or destructive inmates down, jail administrator Scotty Bodiford said. If that doesn’t work, they’re put in a padded holding cell. The Greenville facility also has on-site, around-the-clock medical staff.

“If they’re trying to harm themselves,” Bodiford said, “we have a restraint chair that the supervisors can authorize (that) they can go into for up to four hours.”

If the inmate calms down within those four hours, he said, the restraints come off and he is placed in a padded cell.

The Greenville jail also has other alternatives for destructive inmates. Jail staff can disrobe an inmate and place him in a safety smock, a quilted material that drapes over the inmate’s shoulders and around his waist. That prevents him from being able to tie a knot in the fabric to fashion a makeshift noose with which to try to hang himself.

At the J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Horry County, inmates placed in restraint chairs are first evaluated by a member of the on-site medical staff, said Maj. Joey Johnson, the detention center’s deputy director.

“Medical has to be involved,” he said.

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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