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Position Statement on Shackling Children in Court: Implications for Adolescent Development

January 20, 2015


The overwhelming majority of court-involved juveniles are there for non-violent offenses (U.S. Department of Justice, 2014). Indeed, in 2011, the juvenile violent crime arrest index rate was the lowest in three decades (Puzzanchara, 2013). All youth, regardless of their alleged offense, are shackled in proceedings in hundreds of juvenile courts across the country. In some cases, these children are as young as 7 years of age (McLaurin, 2012). Shackling even occurs in status offense cases in which a young person is brought to the court for non-criminal behavior (e.g., truancy). Children find themselves in handcuffs, leg irons, and belly chains as a routine, unquestioned practice. That is, there is no evidence presented or even considered that these young people are a danger to anyone or likely to attempt to flee (Puritz, 2014). The practice is specifically used on youth who are coming to their court hearings from detention. Because minority children are sent to detention at much higher rates than white peers, shackling is indiscriminately imposed upon children of color (Hoytt, Schiraldi, Smith, & Ziedenberg, 2002).

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