Online Encyclopedia

FETTERS AND HANDCUFFS

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V10, Page 296 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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FETTERS AND HANDCUFFS, instruments for securing the feet and hands of prisoners under arrest, or as a means of punishment. The old names were manacles, shackbolts or shackles, gyves and swivels. Until within recent times handcuffs were of two kinds, the figure-8 ones which confined the hands close together either in front or behind the prisoner, or the rings from the wrists were connected by a short chain much on the model of the handcuffs in use by the police forces of to-day. Much improvement has been made in handcuffs of late. They are much lighter and they are adjustable, fitting any wrist, and thus the one pair will serve a police officer for any prisoner. For the removal of gangs of convicts an arrangement of handcuffs connected by a light chain is used, the chain running through a ring on each fetter and made fast at both ends by what are known as end-locks. Several recently invented appliances are used as handcuffs, e.g. snaps, nippers, twisters. They differ from handcuffs in being intended for one wrist only, the other portion being held by the captor. In the snap the smaller circlet is snapped to on the prisoner's wrist. The nippers can be instantly fastened on the wrist. The twister, not now used in England as being liable to injure prisoners seriously, is a chain attached to two handles; the chain is put round the wrist and the two handles twisted till the chain is tight enough. Leg-irons are anklets of steel connected by light chains long enough to permit of the wearer walking with short steps. An obsolete form was an anklet and chain to the end of which was attached a heavy weight, usually a round shot. The Spanish used to secure prisoners in bilboes, shackles round the ankles secured by a long bar of iron. This form of leg-iron was adopted in England, and was much employed in the services during the 17th and 18th centuries. An ancient example is preserved in the Tower of London. The French marine still use a kind of leg-iron of the bilbo type.
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