May 08, 2006

Deputies Left Woman Handcuffed To Psych Facility Gate

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express (subscribe)

VINITA, OK--A state mental health commissioner says he is filing a civil rights complaint against a county sheriff's department after learning that deputies handcuffed a woman to a mechanical electric gate outside an psychiatric institution.

The Tulsa World reported May 6 that Terry Cline, Commissioner of Oklahoma's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, has filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice and other agencies over the incident that took place last Tuesday.

The woman reportedly had been held since April 3 in the Ottawa County Jail on charges of assault and battery on a police officer, destruction of county property and public intoxication. The news account did not describe her mental illness, but noted that she was found last week to be incompetent to stand trial, and to be a danger to herself or others.

The deputies that transferred the 30-year-old inmate to the Oklahoma Forensic Center, formerly known as Eastern State Hospital, were informed once they arrived that they had not brought the paperwork required for her to be admitted to the institution.

The deputies responded by handcuffing her to the gate. Then they left.

Cline said that a facility security officer happened to have a universal key to open the handcuffs, which he said was fortunate because "the gate is actually one of those big moving gates, and had somebody opened the gate, it would have done serious physical harm to her."

"I feel like I am taking a step back in time when it was OK to shackle people in beds in asylums," Cline said. "For someone to think that practice is OK is almost beyond belief."

Ottawa County Sheriff Dennis King said that the officers did not have a court order to transport the woman back to jail, and that it would have been illegal for him to hold her without one.

"Official blasts handcuffing incident" (Tulsa World)

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Posted on May 08, 2006