Commentary

04.24.15

Chains Hurt Children: The Harm of Restraints

By

Young person with hands cuffed behind back

This is the fifth in a series of posts on the topic of juvenile shackling.

The automatic shackling or use of restraints on youth in juvenile court does not promote safety. Instead, it actually promotes humiliation, hurts children’s mental and emotional stability, and fails to teach youth the concept of respect.

Most children in the juvenile court system are accused of low-level, sometimes non-criminal offenses and pose no risk. Yet, they are forced to wear chains and other degrading restraints that leave long lasting emotional scars.

Read our blog post series:

The potential for long-term harm as a result from the use of shackles or restraints is so great that in the last few months several national organizations have issued resolutions calling for the end of automatic shackling of youth in juvenile court.  In addition to the American Bar Association, the following groups have issued a policy statement against the automatic shackling of youth:

It is well known that between 75 and 93 percent of youth entering the juvenile justice system annually have experienced some degree of trauma. For this reason, the above referenced organizations have said that:

  • “Shackling is inherently shame-producing. Feelings of shame and humiliation may inhibit positive self-development and productive community participation.”—CWLA, January 2015
  • “…a policy of indiscriminate juvenile shackling is in essence a policy of retraumatization…”—AOA, January 2015
  • “The practice of indiscriminate shackling adds to the trauma that many of these youth have already experienced. It is also unnecessarily demeaning, humiliating and stigmatizing.”—AACAP, January 2015

Read testimonies from shackled youth.

Read the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice’s statement.

Read the National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives’ statement.

Read the National Association of Counsel for Children’s statement.

Other groups are scheduled to take a position on juvenile shackling. This July, the National Association of Counties will vote on a resolution urging the adoption of a presumption against the use of unnecessary restraints of juveniles in court. The policy would only allow restraints after an in-person opportunity to be heard and a finding that restraints are the least restrictive means necessary to prevent flight or harm to the juvenile or others.

Shackling youth is harmful, a growing number of states and organizations realize that—Ohio is yet to join them.

 

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