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Conviction of GA Sheriff Shines Light on Police Use Of Restraint Chairs

After a Georgia sheriff was found guilty Wednesday violating detainees' civil rights by strapping them to chairs for hours as punishment, some civil rights advocates say the conviction is just a drop in the bucket for holding law enforcement accountable, Courthouse News reports. Federal prosecutors indicted Victor Hill in April 2021, accusing the Clayton County sheriff of using restraint chairs for purposes other than emergencies. Hill, who served as sheriff for 10 years, was found guilty of violating the civil rights of six detainees and causing them physical pain and bodily injury. Jurors took three days to reach their verdict. "Sadly we know of too many examples of sheriffs engaging in the same kind of punitive brutality that was challenged in this case," said Lauren Bonds of the National Police Accountability Project. Prosecutors accused Hill of using unnecessary force by strapping detainees into restraint chairs for four or more hours even though they were compliant and did not pose threats in the jail. Many of the victims testified having scars on their wrists from being tied down. A17-year-old was restrained in a chair for 10 consecutive hours. Other reports have surfaced of people being mistreated through the use of restraint chairs, with some resulting in death. In 2020, the Marshall Project found the use of restraint chairs in county jails was linked to 20 deaths over six years.

Some residents of Clayton County were troubled by the verdict, saying they saw less gang violence when Hill was in office. Defense attorney Drew Findling plans to appeal the verdict. Hill testified that he ran the jail like a boot camp and used the restraint chairs as a preventive action rather than reactive. He said he placed detainees in the chairs based on the circumstances of their actions prior to their arrest. Hill's conviction comes nine years after he was acquitted of 32 felony counts, which include personal gambling, traveling expenses, racketeering, theft and making false statements. He was sued by civil rights advocates in 2020 for not responding to open records requests related to COVID-19 cases inside the jail and for failing to take initiatives to protect inmates and staff from the virus.


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