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Colorado ACLU Settles Restraint Board Suit

A monitoring agreement was reached between the ACLU Foundation of Colorado, the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office (EPSO) regarding EPSO's use of a restraint board and Level 3 restraints on jail prisoners. The January 31, 2000, agreement also calls for the BOCC to pay costs and attorney fees. The plaintiffs agreed to dismiss an underlying civil lawsuit against the BOCC and EPSU.

The lawsuit was filed on May 21, 1998, by eight El Paso County (Colo.) Jail prisoners who had been subjected to the use of the restraint board, some on multiple occasions. The device is a piece of lumber 7x4 feet in size fitted with ten separate nylon straps which secure a prisoner who is placed facedown on the board. Movement is impossible.

According to the suit, the defendants admitted that since 1994, hundreds and hundreds of prisoners at the jail had been strapped to the board, sometimes as long as 12 hours. Prisoners were denied all opportunity to use a restroom, forcing them to urinate and defecate in their clothes while enduring taunts and ridicule from deputies. At least one prisoner has died at the jail in connection with the restraint board's use.

The agreement reached between the parties is effective between February 1, 2000 and January 31, 2002. It requires EPSO to provide the ACLU access to unedited reports and videotapes documenting the use of Level 3 restraints, and allows the ACLU to interview any jail prisoners during the monitoring period. The El Paso County Attorney's Office must advise the ACLU of any changes to specific policies and procedures concerning the use of Level 3 restraints and related medical policies issued by the jail healthcare provider, Correctional Medical Services.

Under the agreement, the ACLU agrees that it will not bring or sponsor a lawsuit against EPSO on issues involving use of restraints during the monitoring period without first attempting good faith efforts to resolve such issues with EPSO. EPSO agreed that it has no intent to use the restraint board during the monitoring period or thereafter in the future.

The BOCC agreed to pay $50,000 for plaintiffs' costs and attorney fees in exchange for a full and final dismissal with prejudice. The parties agreed that the BOCC and EPSO deny any liability or wrongful conduct on account of the subject incidents. See: Brys, et al. v. Board of County Commissioners, et al., Civil Action 98M1147.

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Related legal case

Brys, et. al. v. Board of County Commissioners