Design and Violence

ZIP-TIE HANDCUFFS

Ubiquitous

Facilitating mass arrest

Zip-tie handcuffs are universal and cheap constraints used by law enforcement to arrest significant numbers of people, especially at large-scale protests. First developed and deployed in the 1970s, their increased usage has become a source of controversy, particularly in the wake of the Occupy movement, when members of the public with no prior criminal record experienced restraint and arrest for the first time. The cuffs fasten tightly against the wrist and thus require skill to apply without creating unintended harm to the subject — care that is not always taken. Plastic cuffs are preferred in part due to their disposability, thus eliminating concerns about sanitation associated with reusing metal restraints. In an age of mass political action, zip-tie handcuffs have come to symbolise the ubiquity both of protest and its containment by the state.

Image: Unknown Designer. Plastic Handcuffs (also known as Plasticuffs or Flexicuffs). Initial design first patented by Peter J. Gregory (American, b. 1934) in 1978. Injection molded nylon, 34 2/3 x 3/4 x 1/2" (87.95 x 1.9 x 1.27 cm). Photograph by Jamer Hunt.