Commentary

10.02.14

Worse Than Adults: The Shackling of Youth in Juvenile Court

By

Young person with hands cuffed behind back

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

“I have worn physical restraints while in the court room and meeting with my attorney. It doesn’t make you feel like anybody really cares about you and you are being treated like an animal.

“I noticed that a lot of courts are public and I saw a lot of people I didn’t know while I was in court for my case. I felt I was already guilty because I was shackled.

“For me, and I’m pretty sure for others, being shackled or having any kind of physical restraints on while dealing with a legal matter is really stressful because you are already stressed out being at court, and it gives you a feeling of hopelessness, shamefulness, and it lowers your self-esteem. It makes you depressed so by the time you get through with the court or trial, you’re so stressed from the emotions that you don’t even want to try anymore.

Read the first blog, What is Shackling?

“When I met with an attorney shackled up the first thing she did was look at my shackles, then she introduced herself. By the time she got done going over paperwork with me, she must have looked at my shackles like 20 times, and asked me if they were too tight and if I wanted them loosened because they looked too tight.

“I understand that people wear physical restraints while in court to keep themselves safe and to keep others safe, but if they are doing good at the facility they are at they shouldn’t have to wear restraints while in court because it takes away some of their pride and self-confidence.”

 Tim Williamson,’ Detained youth,  

Forty-seven years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling In re Gault  held that young people are entitled to the same procedural rights as adults in court proceedings. However, one right that adults have in Ohio, that young people do not have, is the right to appear in court free of restraints.

Courts have ruled that restraints may only be used on adults who pose a safety risk or who have a documented history of escape. Adults in Ohio and around the country have the right to appear in court without handcuffs, belly chains, or leg irons regardless of the charges they face. Only an adult who has been documented to be a serious safety risk may be shackled, and the court must use due process and evidence to determine this. The use of restraints in adult courts is rare.

Youth in several states in the nation have the right to appear in court unrestrained. However, in Ohio’s juvenile courts, the use of restraints is common.

Due to this inconsistency between Ohio’s adult court and juvenile court, an adult facing multiple serious charges will not wear restraints while a youth facing minor or non-criminal charges will.

This does not seem right, does it?

Research and the U.S. Supreme Court have found that minors are less culpable and more amenable to rehabilitation than adults.

So why are we treating them more harshly than adults?

We must treat our youth as well—or better—than we do adults in the justice system.  It’s time to unshackle Ohio’s youth.

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