Nicholas is a young man with autism who lives at the J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center (JIRDC) in Morganton. He was routinely held in a device called an “ambulatory restraint”—a leather belt attached to two leather wrist cuffs that was used to restrict the range of motion of Nicholas’ arms. He was kept in this device 24 hours a day for 13 consecutive days, including while he showered and slept. He was forced to wear at least the belt portion of the device for 157 days in a row.

Disability Rights NC made multiple attempts to address the matter with staff from both JIRDC and the NC Department of Health and Human Services. When that didn’t work, we filed a legal complaint against JIRDC and DHHS for violating the young man’s rights under the US Constitution.

The parties reached a settlement agreement that requires DHHS to develop and implement policies at all three state-operated developmental disability centers:

Prohibit the use of a restraint device on an individual who is sleeping;

Require staff to release an individual from a restraint device to eat, shower, and use the toilet; and

Require staff to release an individual from a restraint device as soon as the likelihood of immediate harm has ended.

The settlement also requires DHHS to provide training to its staff on federal and state legal requirements for the use of restraint.