De-escalation and Safe Restraint

Safe restraint is used to limit an individual’s movement in an appropriate manner, to regain control without posing an unnecessary risk of harm to those involved. There is an absence of clear guidelines which mandate the use of de-escalatory tactics and safe restraint techniques in adverse situations. The aim is to develop effective cooperation and communication between authorities and inmates to create a safe environment for all, ultimately decreasing the likelihood of scenarios requiring the use of restraint. 

The lack of cohesive, mandatory training across jurisdictions partnered with a lack of transparency with the public by corrective services has meant there is little clarity regarding the utility of current policy. Furthermore, what constitutes as a ‘reasonable’ or ‘necessary’ amount of force, and which specific restraint positions can be used by authorities are not explicitly stated. There is a lack of cohesive, and mandatory training in safe restraint practices across jurisdictions, and individual state and territory training manuals are not made available for scrutiny. The lack of public accessibility to this information prevents accountability from being adequately enforced. 

De-escalation can be defined as a ‘reduction of the level of intensity’ of stress and tension in adverse circumstances. It can be achieved through the employment of tactics that aim to reduce tension between individuals, as opposed to physical control over one another. De-escalation should be utilised as an initial tactic before restraining techniques are implemented, to diffuse the tension which occurs in intense and adverse situations. De-escalatory processes involve listening and communicating with the target individual, which are safe and beneficial in the process of regaining control. However, in Australia, there has been a gradual decline in the focus of de-escalation procedures. De-escalation training programs across various states, which previously ran for several days, have been shortened to only one day of training. 

Working Together: A Proposal for De-escalation and Safe Restraint for Authorities with Coercive Powers

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