Commentary

09.06.14

What Is Shackling?

By

Young person with hands cuffed behind back

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

‘Shackling has made me feel like an animal, and it makes me feel like I can’t express myself. It is a distraction to me because rather than focusing on what I have to say, I’m focused on what other people are thinking of me, and on avoiding body movements that are painful and uncomfortable because of the shackles. In addition, being shackled makes me feel mistreated, ashamed and criminal. It has affected how my family sees me because they are afraid of me and I am unable to feel like a normal person when shackled. Shackling also has a negative impact on one’s future. Shackling messes with a person’s state of mind because it makes you feel dangerous and degrades your sense of self.’ 

Daniel Loera’s description of his shackling experience in juvenile court highlights numerous reasons why many states like Washington, where Daniel is from, are establishing policies and limiting the practice to exceptional circumstances.

Have you ever seen a young person in chains before?

If you have spent any time in Ohio’s juvenile courts, it is likely that you have.

Every day in Ohio, young people who have not been convicted of a crime are brought into court wearing various types of restraints including shackles, chains, leg irons, waist belts, and handcuffs. This practice known as shackling is common in Ohio.

Ohio counties that engage in this practice place restraints on every young person that has been detained and required to appear in juvenile court.

Routinely and automatically young people are required to wear restraints in court.

No justification is needed.

No evaluation is made.

No standard statewide guidelines exist to help courts determine whether restraints should be used.

If a young person lives in a county that shackles, they will be shackled. It is that simple.

In recent years, a growing number of states and counties have recognized the psychological harm to young people as a result of the unfairness and inconsistencies of the practice, and are banning the automatic use of restraints in juvenile courts. States are issuing guidelines that limit the use of restraints to those young people who a pose an imminent risk of harm or flight in court.

If other states can do this, surely the great state of Ohio can as well.

 

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