It is a relic of the feudal times. But caged beds are the lot of the mentally ill and the physically disabled in hundreds of social care homes in the Czech Republic, supposedly the most stable and prosperous of the post-Communist states.
Such practices are antithetical to the European Convention on Human Rights. As a European Union member, Czech cannot and should not do it. But it does so merrily, it seems.
AdvertisementFor decades those who were not considered perfect in body and mind by the state were hidden away.
Some of those in care homes were also kept in special beds surrounded by high metal bars or thick netting. These cage beds horrified the international community, and at the beginning of 2007 the Czechs banned them.
But ban or no ban, in more than 200 social care homes across the country, around 10,000 people with mental and physical disabilities are still kept in such caged beds, says the BBC.
An undercover team of the channel saw and filmed children lying on mattresses inside cages.
A member of the home staff unlocked one cage, pulling down the heavy iron bars to demonstrate how it was opened. She did not touch the person inside. She then lifted the gate back up and locked it in place.
Only then did she reach through the bars to stroke the head of the male teenager inside, as if stroking an animal in its cage at the zoo.
Our team was told he could be aggressive - that he was locked up to protect himself and others, Clive Myrie reports.
The team also found one teenager who had been living in a cage bed for 12 years in another home.
He was sitting upright with his head bowed. He barely moved. Around him were just blank walls and the iron bars of his cage. There was nothing to stimulate his mind, no colourful pictures or posters. The cage was his world.
Of the eight social care homes the BBC team visited, five were still using cage beds in clear defiance of the law.
"We are trying to put an end to this. But it's difficult to put in a comprehensive system of monitoring overnight with independent experts. The new law is only 12 months old. We need time," said Martin Zarsky, from the Ministry of Social Affairs.
The Czech social care system is woefully underfunded, and there is a shortage of well-trained staff, it is also pointed out.