Lawsuit Seeks to End Unnecessary Seclusion and Restraint and Improve Inadequate Treatment
Friday, May 20, 2011
Florida Institutional Legal Services, a public interest law firm that represents people institutionalized in Florida, and Disability Rights Florida, Florida’s protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities, filed a lawsuit in April 2011 against the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) on behalf of individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism confined at the Mentally Retarded Defendant Program (MRDP).
Under Florida law, persons who are charged with felony crimes who do not understand the criminal process due to an intellectual disability or autism, can be committed to APD for purposes of learning about the criminal process, skills training, and mental health treatment. Once committed, APD sends these persons to MRDP, which is a secure facility located at Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee.
The class action lawsuit, E.B. v. Vaughan, was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida on behalf of over sixty individuals confined at MRDP. The lawsuit does not request any monetary damages. The suit seeks a court order to obtain adequate treatment and training and end the use of unnecessary seclusion and restraint. In most instances of restraint, residents’ arms, legs, and torsos are strapped into chairs completely immobilizing movement. MRDP also has a written policy that authorizes the use of extended seclusion where residents can be isolated in a room alone for days at a time even when the residents exhibit completely calm behavior. One named plaintiff had been placed in extended seclusion for six days. The suit alleges that the state agency relies on this excessive use of seclusion and restraint in lieu of appropriate, professionally accepted, and individualized treatment and behavior management programs.
The lawsuit was filed after years of advocacy on behalf of individuals confined at MRDP with no improvement.
Updates will be provided here as the case proceeds.
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