The Human Rights Commission of Korea on Monday advised the Forensic Psychiatry Institute of Gongju, South Chungcheong Province, to stop using excessive physical force on its inmates. It also advised the Justice Ministry to ensure that the institute carries out practices that are humane.
Psychiatric institutes hold criminals diagnosed with mental illnesses for treatment and correction. Inmates are allowed to be physically restrained with leather or fabric straps at the facilities if they pose a threat that cannot be handled with any other measure, according to the Act on Medical Treatment and Custody.
Forensic Psychiatry Institute of Gongju (Yonhap)
The case came to light after three inmates at the FPIG lodged petitions complaining of unfair treatment by the institution’s workers. Two complained that they were restrained unfairly, while one said he was tied up and dragged down a corridor.
The institute initially denied the accusations, saying the actions were correctional or defensive measures taken as a result of the inmates’ violent and socially disruptive behavior.
However, through an investigation, the HRCK found the allegations to be true.
According to the HRCK, between March and June this year, two of the inmates had suffered 204 cases of “five-point compulsion” in which their hands, feet and chest were all bound at the same time. Such physical restraint is the strongest of its kind and is believed to cause excruciating pain and trauma to a person.
The commission presumed that such a practice was carried out habitually, even in situations in which it was unnecessary.
The commission also checked CCTV footage and found that one of the three prisoners had been knocked to the floor and was tied up by a staff member while other inmates witnessed the bound inmate being dragged along the floor.
The commission’s Second Rectification Committee of Human Rights Violation concluded that physical inhibition without any prior measures taken in advance was excessive and violated inmates’ dignity granted by the Constitution.
The committee recommended that the head of the institute educate its staff on inmates’ human rights and safe methods of confinement.
By Choi Ji-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)