Abuses Alleged at State-Run Mental Center

     MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – A federal class action alleges widespread abuse at a state-run mental health institution. Parents of inmates at the Minnesota Extended Treatment Options say patients are put in isolation, handcuffed and shackled for infractions as minor as touching a staff member.

     James and Lorie Jensen say their autistic was restrained with handcuffs and leg hobbles at least 70 times during his stay. Another patient was restrained 299 times in one year, the Jensens say. They claim the center doles out treatment that is “abusive, inhumane, cruel and improper.”
     The Jensens also say the center refused to let them visit their son at time, deprived other inmates or patients of family visits. They say the center’s staff stripped a female resident and put her in one of its “seclusion rooms,” which has a viewing window.
     The Jensens say these abuses are substantiated by a report prepared last fall by a state ombudsman, titled “Just Plain Wrong,” which found that the Cambridge, Minn. center had restrained 63 percent of its patients, “most of them multiple times.” The report documented and condemned the center’s use of “failed practices of the past.”
     The ombudsman reported that some patients “were being restrained on a restraint board with straps across their limbs and trunk.”
     The center, however, “has insisted that restraining patients is ‘essential’ to its program,” according to the complaint. The center is operated by the defendant Minnesota Department of Human Services.
     The class wants the center enjoined from using restraints on its patients and an injunction to “ensure that lawful and humane conditions of confinement are afforded to … patients.” The class is represented by Shamus O’Meara with Johnson Condon.

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