A new debate is raging in juvenile courts – whether or not youths appearing there need to be in shackles. As of now, kids as young as 10 may be put in handcuffs and shackles for the protection of the court. In fact, according to USA Today, this is common in more than half of states. Many argue, however, that this not only makes it appear that the defendant is a criminal for the purposes of the jury before they are ever convicted, but can make the child start to feel like a criminal as well.
Many officials in these courts report that they would rather be safe than sorry, and claim juvenile defendants can be particularly unpredictable. They use shackles to prevent the possibility of an attempted escape or violent attack. Also, many say appearances don’t matter, as juries usually have no say in the fate of these children – rather, it is left in the hands of the judge.
Many judges and attorneys seem to be coming to the defense of these kids, however. One public defender in Palm Beach, Carey Haughwout, claims that if these children are treated disrespectfully by the court, it will affect them for the rest of their lives, and they will never have respect for the system. Although some argue that they already don’t. Others claim that in public courtrooms, the embarrassment of being seen is shackles may be enough to motivate a child to change – and some parents who recently made headlines for using public humiliation to discipline their children might agree.
Regardless of the sides of the issue, it’s clear that the purpose of the courts and criminal justice system is to rehabilitate these kids, and the courts need to figure out the best way to accomplish that. But likely the question will remain as to whether or not shackles are necessary to do so.
Image: USA TODAY