January 30, 2018
THE INFAMOUS BLACK BOX
The Black Box is a a handcuff cover which protects the key hole and prevents the offender from picking or tampering with any parts of the lock. This protective device is made from high-strength, high-impact ABS plastic and, according to the manufacturer, the security clip is the same strength as steel. The Black Box is placed over the lock apparatus that runs between the prisoner’s handcuffs and is situated between the hands forcing them in parallel positioning. A chain runs through the box, encircles the prisoner’s waist, is tightened and then locked so that the prisoner’s hands, restrained by cuffs and the black box are pulled against the stomach. The Black Box is worn in conjunction with handcuffs, waist chain and leg irons.
Although the Black Box ensures safe transport, if used incorrectly, it can cause serious injury. At Florida State Prison, the Black Box was being affixed over handcuffs locked behind the back of Death Row inmates and those in confinement when they were being moved solely within the confines of the facility. When inmates move outside of their immediate housing unit, they are strip searched, cuffed, black boxed, secured by waist chains and leg irons per F.A.C. 33-601.830 (5) (c). Although these regulatory, safety measures demand strict compliance, the issue remains that Black Boxes were being affixed behind the inmate’s back where they inflict unbearable pain and cause muscle spasms that run to the neck even within short periods of time. Inmates were refusing medical, mental health and legal call-outs to avoid being subject to these torturous conditions.
Physical damage from use of the Black Box, even when it is affixed in front of the inmate, is shown in Knox vs McGinnis (US Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit) where Knox maintains that the Black Box caused him severe discomfort and physical injury. The device required that his arms remain in close proximity to one another and to his chest, making it impossible for him to bring his arms or hands together. This posture caused the handcuffs to cut into Knox’ wrists whenever he moved his arms. The device left indentations on Knox’ wrists and sometimes caused bleeding. Knox also experienced persistent pain in his hands and numbness in his thumb. He still occasionally has pain in his left hand that prevents him from making a fist. When damages of this nature are sustained with the frontal use of this restraint, consider how much more brutal the pain inflicted when the Box is affixed behind the back and the waist chain tightened.
Mr. Eric Lane, Director Region 2, conferred with Central Office, Tallahassee, on the usage of the Black Box at FSP. On November 17, 2014, effective immediately, the decision was made to terminate the use of Black Box behind the back for all inmates within the state.
In this case, inmates spoke up and Tallahassee answered by taking humane action without compromising safety for staff or inmates. We thank the FDOC Administration for immediately rectifying this agonizing condition.
Knox vs Gillis