This questions is pending before the Nebraska Unicameral in LB 482, sponsored by Senator Krist. This bill only addresses whether shackles (handcuffs and leg irons) should be required of all juveniles only while they are in the courtroom. It does not address whether or not shackles should be used in transporting the juveniles to or from the court house or while they are in a detention facility.
What are the risks? Obviously, we want to protect the juvenile and others in the courtroom. We want to make sure no suspect in custody escaped, whether a juvenile or an adult. This issue is addressed in LB 482 in section 3. The bill requires the court to make a finding if the juvenile has a history of disruptive courtroom behavior, presents a risk of harm to themselves or others and if the juvenile is a flight risk. If the court finds that any of these risks are present, then shackles may be used. Otherwise shackles should not be used.
Why does this matter?
Well, scientific studies find the public and even the court’s perception about the innocence or guilt of a prisoner in court is effected by seeing them in an orange jumpsuit and shackled. The fundamental right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty is safeguarded by the Constitution. Shackles have also been found to be a factor in recidivism in juveniles as the juvenile perceive themselves to be “criminal” if facing the humiliation of court proceedings in front of family and friends while shackled.
Should ALL juveniles be shackled?
A juvenile, whose only offense is truancy or a curfew violation, is much less likely to need to be restrained than the juvenile with a lengthy criminal history including crimes of violence. Does a 12 year old charged with shoplifting have to appear in an oversized orange jumpsuit and handcuffs and leg irons? Is this necessary or even appropriate for our justice system?
Let me know what you think.