The Justice Department is asking a federal court to prevent children from being admitted to an Arkansas institution, alleging mistreatment and unnecessary segregation at the facility.

Federal officials say the 500 residents of the Conway Human Development Center in Conway, Ark. face “imminent and serious threats.” They say the facility is plagued by mismanagement of psychiatric medications and the use of more than 40 different types of mechanical restraints, many of which have long been banned from other similar facilities.

Now the Justice Department wants a federal court to intervene to halt further admissions of children while also eliminating the use of many restraints and implementing safeguards where medication is concerned.

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The federal government also wants the court to force the state to provide more options for people with disabilities to live in the community. This, after officials found that between June 1, 2007 and Oct. 1, 2009 residents of the Arkansas facility were more likely to die than to move to a community-based setting.

Residents at the center — which is the largest of Arkansas’s six institutions for people with mental and physical disabilities — have a life expectancy of 46.5 years versus an average lifespan of 72 for residents of other institutional facilities.

“The state has a responsibility to ensure the safety of individuals who reside in state-run facilities, and we must act swiftly when the state does not live up to that responsibility,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general who heads the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Individuals with developmental disabilities have the right to live in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs, and states must take swift action to ensure that all individuals are accorded these basic rights.”