Disability Rights California Urges California to Adopt Better Protections for Incarcerated Individuals from the Dangers Posed by Restraint Chairs

Press Release
An image of a jail restraint chair in a dark room.

(Sacramento, CA) On behalf of the numerous individuals who have perished in restraint chairs in county jails across the United States and California, Disability Rights California (DRC) published its findings and recommendations in a report released today, “The Cruel and Unusual Use of Restraint Chairs in California Jails: A Call to Action.”

DRC monitored restraint chairs use in jails throughout California, reviewing current regulations and jail restraint policies from all 58 California counties, examining academic research, interviewing county jail staff, and consulting with an expert on correctional health. DRC’s report shines a much-needed light on the current practice of inadequate supervision and standards that lead to increased risk of death or injury from restraint chair use. 

Based on our findings, DRC urges California to adopt better protections for incarcerated individuals from the dangers posed by restraint chairs. “Ideally, county jails would not use restraint or restraint chairs. We found that some counties do not employ them at all. If counties do use restraint chairs, we recommend that they follow counties that use them only for as long as necessary to transport a person for outside medical care, and that a person not be held in a chair for longer than two hours,” said Pamila Lew, senior attorney at Disability Rights California and a principal author of the report.

DRC embarked on its restraint chair monitoring project after learning of the death of Andrew Holland, a young man with schizophrenia who died from a pulmonary embolism after being held in a restraint chair for nearly 46 hours at San Luis Obispo County Jail. 

“Since the bare minimum these devices require is the adherence to a set of monitoring standards, and at best, trained compassionate mental health workers to administer its use, we emphatically do not believe our jails should be allowed to use restraint chairs as a form of punishment or even as a means of containment.  As the mother and father of Andrew Holland, and founders of the Andrew Holland Foundation, we are touched and very grateful to DRC for their dedication of this report. Our hope is that we, as a society, respect the importance and dignity of the lives of people struggling with mental illness. That would be the best way to honor the memory of our son,” said Sharon and Carty Holland.  


“DRC stands committed to reducing and eliminating restraint use as the practice disproportionately affects people with disabilities and causes unnecessary harm and trauma. DRC opposes the use of California’s jails and prisons as de-facto housing for people with disabilities, the majority of whom are people of color. We advocate to increase the quality and availability of housing, employment, education and healthcare in the communities hardest hit by the pandemic and our biased criminal justice system. These overdue investments will reduce incarceration and help our state build a future with liberty, equity, and justice for all,” says Andrew Imparato, Executive Director, Disability Rights California.

DRC’s report includes detailed recommendations regarding the use of restraints and restraint chairs in California jails. A full copy of the report is available at: https://www.disabilityrightsca.org/restraint-chairs-in-california

Media Contacts:

Melody Pomraning
Communications Director
Disability Rights California



Disability Rights California (DRC)

Is the agency designated under federal law to protect and advocate for the rights of Californians with disabilities. The mission of DRC is to advance the rights, dignity, equal opportunities, and choices for all people with disabilities. For more information visit www.disabilityrightsca.org.