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5-Point Restraints = Excessive Force + Due Process Violation Results in $25,000 Virginia Damage Award

A federal court in Virginia held that subjecting a prisoner to five-point restraints for 46-48 hours on five occasions was cruel and unusual punishment. It also found the lack of procedural protections deprived the prisoner of due process of law.

Charles Card was confined at Virginia?s Sussex II State Prison (SIISP) from April 6, 1999 to February 23, 2000. Within days of his arrival, Card began incurring numerous threatening, assaultive and disruptive disciplinary violations. SIISP Warden Eddie Pearson described Card as ?highly unpredictable ? with violent tendencies toward staff.?

Between May 17, 1999 and February 1, 2000, Card was placed in five-point restraints on five occasions. He was ?positioned ? upon a bed, and leather straps [were] applied to the wrists, ankles and across the chest.? Clothed only in his underwear, Card was held in this position for 48 hours on four occasions and 46 hours on the fifth. The restraints were ordered for kicking or beating on his cell door, and once for struggling with a guard.

Card?s complaints of aches and pains were ignored. On one occasion, Card ?urinated and defecated on himself, and was not let up for half an hour afterward.? He was then denied a shower. On another occasion, ?the pain was so severe that he vomited.?

In 2000, Card brought suit in federal court and the court subsequently denied the defendants qualified immunity. On December 17, 2004, Card moved for partial summary judgment on liability and punitive damages.

With respect to Card?s excessive force claim, the district court noted that in Sadler v. Young, 325 F.Supp.2d 689 (E.D.Va 2004), ?the court found that ?any reasonable jury would find that completely immobilizing an inmate in five-point restraints for nearly forty-eight hours constitutes more than de minimis pain, even when the inmate is temporarily released ? and regardless of whether there is proof that the inmate suffered any lasting injury.??

The court found that the defendants had failed to rebut Card?s showing on either the objective or subjective components of his excessive force claim. Moreover, ?the record discloses nothing to justify plaintiff?s continued restraint for periods of forty-six and forty-eight hours.?
Therefore, the court granted Card summary judgment on this claim.

Turning to the due process claim, the court rejected defendants? contention that ?enduring forty-eight hours of five-point restraints is not an atypical and significant hardship on a prisoner.? Williams v. Benjamin, 77 F.3d. 7567, 786-70 (4th Cir. 1996). Without defining ?either the precise contours of the process that was due ? or the exact point in time that plaintiff became entitled to due process,? the court concluded that Card ?was entitled to some procedural protection at some point well before the expiration of forty-six and forty-eight hours.? The restraint procedure at SIISP was changed in October 2000, providing for more administrative oversight.

The court denied summary judgment on Card?s punitive damages claim, however, noting that ?the issue of punitive damages is in the discretion of the jury.? Finally, the court stated the issue of attorney?s fees would be held until after the trial.

The case went to trial on the issue of damages on April 19, 2006. The jury ordered defendant Eddie Pearson to pay a total of $11,000 in actual damages for the five incidents when Card was placed in restraints; defendant Jamilla Burney was ordered to pay $4,500 in actual damages for three such incidents; and defendant Ivan Gilmore ordered to pay $9,500.00 in actual damages for five incidents, for $25,000 in total damages awarded.

On June 13, 2006, the district court granted the plaintiff?s motion for attorney fees, directing the Defendants to pay $28,847.74 in attorney?s fees and costs. See: Card v. D.C. Dept. of Correction, USDC ED VA, Case No. 2:00-vc-00631-JBF.

Additional Source: The Virginian-Pilot

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Related legal case

Card v. D.C. Dept. of Correction