WASHINGTON COUNTY, AR (KNWA) - It's a device being called into question across the Natural State. Known as The WRAP-- it is used to restrain minors in Juvenile Detention Centers and it's used across Arkansas, including in Benton and Washington counties.
According to the state, the Yell County Juvenile Detention used it to restrain minors at its facility. Following a report on the device, the Arkansas Department of Human Services and the Division of Youth Services sent a cease and desist letter to Yell County.
In Washington County, the juvenile facility is not on contract with DYS. Directors at the Washington County Juvenile Detention Center say the device is only used when all else fails and it has only been used six times in the past two years.
"The WRAP is a last resort when verbal deescalation is not working and then we have had to physically restrain the child," says Jean E. Mack, the Director at the Washington County Juvenile Detention Center.
According to Mack, the 36-bed facility currently houses 10 juvenile offenders between the ages of 14 and 17. She says the staff only has certain options when it comes to assisting a child behaving violently.
"We are not law enforcement, we are juvenile officers trained to deal with juveniles. We do not carry pepper spray or tasers in this facility. If a child is the size that we can not hold them any longer and they are combative, then we make the decision to use the WRAP," she explains.
The WRAP has been at the facility since 1997 and requires special training that follows a specific manual. Mack says it has helped in tough situations.
"We found that deescalation times were cut in half and injuries rarely rarely occurred with the device, but again I'll stress it was only for those youths that we could not physically restrain," she adds.
Washington County's WRAP does not use a helmet, as seen in some of the photos taken in Yell County.
"We do not use a helmet. A helmet would be considered a modified version of the patented device," says Mack.
The Washington County Juvenile Detention Center has also been corresponding with the Division of Youth Services regarding the WRAP, but, as aforementioned, the facility does not have a contract with DYS. It is under the direction of Washington County Judge Marilyn Edwards, and has no plans to stop using the device.
"We would continue our current policy in the event that we would have to use the WRAP for that purpose," Mack says.
Director Mack says safety is her number one concern.
"I not only have to protect the kids, I have to protect the staff as well, so we're open to any new forms of training that would keep us from having to be hands-on, but the reality is sometimes these kids are combative," she says.
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