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Letter By "Harry Potter" Writer Sparks Changes In Czech Caged Beds Policy
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 13, 2004

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC--After years of work by international human rights groups and pressure from international bodies, it appears that a letter from a writer of children's books has caused the Czech government to reverse its position on caged beds in mental institutions.

According to several sources, J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, wrote to Czech President Vaclav Klaus calling on him to ban the use of caged bed for children and adults in his nation's psychiatric hospitals.

Rowling wrote the letter after reading about six children with developmental disabilities who were discovered last month in wire cages at a facility near Prague. The Sunday Times had reported that the children were let out briefly each morning to be fed and washed, but spent the rest of their time in the cages.

The noted author told President Klaus that she was "horrified beyond words" and asked him to end the "torture" of these and other children.

The next day, the Czech health ministry announced that it would immediately remove all caged beds from the country's mental health facilities. Czech authorities have said that there are about 20 caged beds and about 100 net-covered beds in psychiatric centers.

Amnesty International, the Council of Europe, the European Union and the United Nations all have pressured the Czech government to stop restraining people with disabilities in the enclosures made from metal bars or wire mesh.

"We have been following the situation for some time," said Aneta Kupkova, a health ministry spokeswoman, "and the letter from Ms. Rowling was one reason we decided to act now."

Kupkova said that the caged beds would be banned immediately, and that the use of net-covered beds would be forbidden by the end of the year.

In a related story, last week the BBC Radio 4 featured two stories about a man who was held for a week against his will in a caged bed at a Czech psychiatric hospital.

"Out of sight, out of mind" (BBC News, July 8)
"Czech man's week in a cage" (BBC News, July 8)


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