A padded cell is a cell in a psychiatric hospital with cushions lining the walls. The padding is an attempt to prevent a patient from hurting themselves by hitting their head (or other bodily parts) on the hard surface of the walls. In most cases, persons are not placed in padded cells voluntarily.
A padded cell is sometimes colloquially known as a "rubber room".
Most padded cells are the same size as a single room, about 10 feet from front to back and about 8 feet wide, and are designed for short-term, single occupancy. The walls and floor are covered with padding, which is typically four inches in thickness. The walls are usually covered with cork crumb filled pouches made of strong canvas or leather, which is then covered with rubberized paint. The padded floor is covered in leather and the door to the cell is commonly made of very strong wood or wood reinforced with steel. The door, also padded on the inside, may have an observation port which allows supervising medical staff to have a full, uninterrupted view of the room and its occupant. The door has no knob or handle on the inside, and is typically secured by a strong lock which can only be opened from the outside by authorized personnel.
The length of time patients were kept in a padded cell would vary greatly. Sometimes patients could remain locked in one for several days. A patient might also be made to wear a straitjacket if they were considered a risk of self-harm.
The use of padded cells and straitjackets fell dramatically following the introduction of psychotropic drugs in the 1950s and their presence/use is now rare in modern mental health care facilities in most of the industrialized world. The use of padded rooms, or isolation is still a common occurrence in mental health facilities across the United States.
A reconstructed padded cell is maintained at the Stephen Beaumont Museum, Fieldhead Hospital, Wakefield, UK
- "rubber room" definition from Double-Tongued Dictionary
- Use and abuse of seclusion and restraints in the United States.
- TheTimeChamber - History and photographs of Padded Cells in Great Britain
- rubber room (USA) and padded room (UK) photos in abandoned hospitals
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