Lauren G. Fasig, Ph.D., JD
Center on Children and Families
University of Florida Levin College
INTRODUCTION: THE SHACKLING OF JUVENILE DEFENDANTS
Take the chains and shackles offjuveniles. Florida'sjuveniles endure practice worthy of chain gangs. Bar
panel uges: unchain the children. 1 Headlines questioning the routine shackling of juvenile defendants
have emerged in newspapers across the state. Juvenile shackling is a controversial issue in Florida
and is an increasingly hot topic among public defenders and child advocacy groups throughout the
United States. In most Florida circuits and counties, detained juveniles are shackled with metal
handcuffs, belly chains and leg irons during all court appearances-regardless of alleged offense or
projected security risk.2
Many Florida lawyers, child advocates, and psychological experts believe shackling children
is harmful and inconsistent with the rehabilitative goals of the Florida Department of Juvenile Jus-
tice (DJJ).3 These opponents of juvenile shackling argue that it serves only to demean and humili-
ate children, causing severe emotional stress and psychological harm, while serving no rehabilitative
purpose.4 A recent motion to unshackle juveniles in the 11th Circuit contends that the practice of
detaining juveniles in shackles, "stands in clear violation of international law...the handcuffing and
shackling of children can cause them serious mental and emotional harm, and undermine the
court's very objectives in preventing delinquency or rehabilitating a child."5
Experts in adolescent development, childhood trauma, therapeutic jurisprudence and inter-
national law, note that the reasons to end "indiscriminate" juvenile shackling are numerous, and
include that: The practice of children appearing in court in chains is irrational, inhumane, degrad-
ing and an affront to the dignity of both children and juvenile court proceedings; it may cause the
child significant physical, mental or emotional health impairment; it is anti-therapeutic for the large
number of children in delinquency proceedings who have suffered physical or sexual abuse, have
mental illness or retardation, or have other disabilities; it may further traumatize children who have
been previously victimized, especially when restraint was a part of the abuse; it may restrict the ju-
venile's ability to communicate with counsel; and it may contribute to the perception of the defen-
dant as a criminal.6
Proponents of unshackling further argue that most juvenile defendants are not charged
with violent crimes, decreasing the need for their restraint. In the United States in 2006, only 4.5
percent of juvenile offenses included a violent crime (murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forcible
rape, robbery and .I_"- .-- it.. assault). Eleven percent of juvenile arrests in 2006 included simple
assault.8 In contrast, in 2006, property crimes, such as burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft
and arson, comprised 18 percent of juvenile offenses.9 Twenty-nine percent of juvenile offenses
that year were non-violent status offenses.10
Most public defenders interviewed by the Center on Children and Families reported that
current juvenile shackling practices are excessive; since most juveniles are arrested for property
crimes or status offenses, the threat of courtroom violence is low. "It is ridiculous that they
shackle them (juveniles) as much as they do," said Jennings Wright, assistant public defender, Juve-
nile Division, Fourth Circuit (Clay County), who further suggested that it is "absolutely not" neces-
sary for the juveniles to be shackled.1
Not all of the professionals involved with
juvenile offenders support a change to current
shackling practices. While the DJJ does not have
an official policy regarding juvenile shackling dur-
ing court proceedings, the DJJ and many Florida
State Attorney's Offices often maintain that shack- '
ling detained juveniles is a necessary safety meas-
ure.12 Proponents of continued shackling assert
that unshackled juveniles present a flight risk, as
well as a security risk to the judge, lawyers and1
other courtroom observers.13 .
Shackling proponents argue that young
defendants are more impulsive than adults, and thus, juvenile offenders may require tighter security
practices than adults because they are more likely to run without considering the consequences of
their actions.14 Detained children have already been determined to meet secure detention criteria,
indicating that they pose a public safety risk.15 Proponents further argue that shackling serves to
deter further juvenile crime because detained children will see each other shackled.16 Supporters of
juvenile shacking also assert that security in the court room is the sheriffs responsibility.1 There-
fore, the sheriff should be allowed to decide how best to secure the court room, not the judge.1
The pivotal question in the shackling debate is whether the use of shackles is counterpro-
ductive to the goals of juvenile rehabilitation when the shackles are used during courtroom appear-
ances regardless of alleged offense or projected security risk. Unarguably, the rehabilitation of
children in the Florida juvenile justice system is a crucial goal of the state. The mission of the
Florida DJJ is "to increase public safety by reducing juvenile delinquency through effective preven-
tion, intervention and treatment services that strengthen families and turn around the lives of trou-
bled youth."19 The goal of rehabilitating juvenile offenders is also clearly expressed in the Florida
Statutes Annotated 985.01 and 985.02.20
In response to the ongoing debate and concerns from the Eighth Circuit judiciary about shackling
practices, the Center on Children and Families (CCF) reviewed juvenile shackling practices and
policies throughout Alachua County, the state of Florida and the United States. CCF also con-
ducted observational research to evaluate the Eighth Circuit's unshackling assessment. This report
provides the results of CCF's review.
rIf i itiI, I1 -I.- i t 111'',iir I 11) 1*.I I.I. I I .11-1 In I -,ri r
I. THE EVOLUTION OF JUVENILE UNSHACKLING EFFORTS IN FLORIDA
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Most counties in Florida fully shackle detained juveniles when they
appear in court, a practice that includes the use of handcuffs, a
waist chain or belt connected to the handcuffs and leg irons. The
locations in which juveniles wait for their appearances vary, and
include holding cells, conference rooms, jury boxes, witness rooms,
and benches within the courtrooms, but appeared to have no rela-
tionship to whether and to what extent they are shackled.
Unshackling proponents in Florida are also making efforts to exact change through legisla-
tion. Two bills relating to the restraint of juveniles while in court went before the Florida House of
Representatives and the Florida Senate. During the 2007 House Session, the Juvenile Justice Com-
mittee chose to hear only one bill, and consequently the unshackling bill was never addressed. The
bills were re-introduced in the 2008 legislative session, but were not passed out of the Criminal Jus-
tice Committees of either chamber.
II. CURRENT JUVENILE SHACKLING PRACTICES IN FLORIDA
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In February 2007, Alachua County, Florida, began unshackling the wrists of detained juve-
niles on a trial basis. CCF agreed to conduct an observational study aimed at determining whether
decreased shackling impacted the defendants' court room behavior. CCF representatives observed
436 juvenile court proceedings in Alachua County during the first seven months of 2007. Most of
the proceedings were detention hearings (59%), or dispositions (26" ... The children observed by
CCF representatives were predominately male (76" and African American (75' .). Twenty-one
percent (21'..) of the children were Caucasian and three percent (" ..) were Hispanic.
CCF observed the shackling procedures used with the juvenile defendants. The following
scenarios were most commonly observed:
The detained juvenile entered the courtroom with his/her hands and legs shackled. The
juvenile's hands were un-cuffed in the courtroom before appearing before the judge. The
juvenile's hands were re-cuffed in the courtroom before returning to the holding cell.
The detained juvenile entered the courtroom with his/her legs shackled only. The juve-
nile's hands were un-cuffed and re-cuffed in the holding cell.
The detained juvenile entered the courtroom with his/her legs shackled only. The juve-
nile's hands were re-cuffed in the courtroom before returning to the holding cell.
The juvenile entered the courtroom completely unshackled because he/she was not being
held in secure detention.
The detained juvenile's hands and legs remained shackled at all times.
Forty-seven percent (47'".) of the defendants had not been detained; they entered un-
cuffed from the audience area of the courtroom. Twenty-nine percent "'*, of the juveniles
entered the courtroom shackled at the leg only, and were un-cuffed and re-cuffed in the hold-
ing cell. Twelve percent (12'",) entered the courtroom shackled at the leg only but were re-
cuffed before returning to the holding cell. Nine percent (9" of the defendants entered the
courtroom and returned to the holding cell shackled at the hands and legs and were un-cuffed
only during their appearance. Three percent (" .' of defendants remained completely shackled
at the hands and feet throughout the proceedings. Defendants were charged with 19 different
types of violations, including violation of probation or home detention.
CCF also observed the overall demeanor of the defendants. For these observations, de-
meanor was described as either: compliant, withdrawn, defiant, or aggressive.36 Most of the defen-
dants, regardless of charge or hearing result, were rated as compliant "i' Four percent (4" .. of
the defendants were rated as withdrawn, while only one percent (1'.. was rated as defiant. One
individual was rated as aggressive, and a second person was rated as having an "emotional out-
Mirroring the results of the full group of defendants, 94% of those who were shackled at
the leg only were compliant, four percent 4'..) were withdrawn, and one percent (1'.. was defiant.
Only one defendant in this category was rated as .... r..--... Of the three percent ('" y who re-
mained fully shackled throughout the court proceedings, 75% of the defendants who were shackled
at the hands and legs throughout the proceedings were rated as compliant, and 25% of defendants
in this category were rated as withdrawn. Thus, the court room behavior of the children who were
un-cuffed at the hands was statistically no different than the behavior of those who were com-
pletely shackled or of those who were un-cuffed (95% compliant, 3% withdrawn, and 2% defiant).
Although CCF also considered charges and hearing results, we found no differences in the behav-
ior of defendants who were shackled at the legs only as compared to those who were un-cuffed or
shackled at the hands and legs, related to these factors.
California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, North Dakota, North
Carolina, Oregon, and Vermont do not shackle juvenile defendants
as a result of State Supreme Court rulings or legislative action.
IV. OVERVIEW OF NATIONAL JUVENILE SHACKLING PRACTICES
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SMiami-Dade Public Defender, Public Defender Challenges Shackling of Juveniles, http://www.pdmiami.com/unchainthechildren.htm (last
visited Aug. 14, 2007).
2 CCF Telephone Interviews with Florida Juvenile Public Defenders indicated 15 out of 20 circuits routinely shackle juveniles during court ap-
pearances. Circuits 6, 9, 10 and 13 did not report.
3 Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, http://www.djj.state.fl.us/guidingprinciples.html (last visited Aug. 14, 2007).
4Motion for Child to Appear Free from Degrading and Unlawful Restraints, 2, http://www.pdmiami.com/unchainthechildren/
MotionforChild_to_Appear_Free_from_Degrading_and_Unlawful_Restraints.pdf (last visited August 16, 2007).
7 OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book. Online. Available: http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/crime/JAR Display.asp?ID=qa05200. (last visited Decem-
ber 13, 2007.)
11 Supra, note 2.
12 Carlos Martinez, Why are Children in Florida Treated as Enemy Combatants?, National Legal Aid & Defender Association Cornerstone, May-Aug.
2007, at 10,11,15, http://www.pdmiami.com/NLADACorner ine\[a.irtinez -rticle\[ .iy- ug' i" '-.pdf (last visited August16, 2007).
13Id. at 11.
19 Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, http://www.djj.state.fl.us/guidingprinciples.html (last visited Aug. 14, 2007).
20 Florida Statute 985.01(1) The purposes of this chapter are:
(a) To provide judicial and other procedures to assure due process through which children and other interested parties are assured fair hearings
by a respectful and respected court or other tribunal and the recognition, protection, and enforcement of their constitutional and other legal
rights, while ensuring that public safety interests and the authority and dignity of the courts are adequately protected.
(b) To provide for the care, safety, and protection of children in an environment that fosters healthy social, emotional, intellectual, and physical
development; to ensure secure and safe custody; and to promote the health and well-being of all children under the state's care.
(c) To ensure the protection of society, by providing for a comprehensive standardized assessment of the child's needs so that the most appropri
ate control, discipline, punishment, and treatment can be administered consistent with the seriousness of the act committed, the community's
long-term need for public safety, the prior record of the child, and the specific rehabilitation needs of the child, while also providing whenever
possible restitution to the victim of the offense....
Florida Statute 985.02(1) General protections for children.-It is a purpose of the Legislature that the children of this state be provided with
the following protections:... (c) a safe and nurturing environment which will preserve a sense of personal dignity and integrity.
(3) Juvenile justice and delinquency prevention.-It is the policy of the state with respect to juvenile justice and delinquency prevention to first
protect the public from acts of delinquency. In addition, it is the policy of the state to: ... the Legislature intends that detention care, in addition
to providing secure and safe custody, will promote the health and well-being of the children committed thereto and provide and environment
that fosters their social, emotional, intellectual, and physical development.
21Motion for Child to Appear Free from Degrading and Unlawful Restraints, 4
23 Dade County Public Defender's Office Web site, www.pdmiami.com (last visited August 16, 2007)
24 Supra, note
28 Supra, note 2.
30 Kathleen Chapman, Judges Refuse to Unshackle Juveniles, Palm Beach Post, February 2, 2007, http://www.pdmiami.com/Palm_Beach_Post-
Judges_refuse_tounshackle_juveniles.pdf (last visited August 16, 2007).
3Juveniles to Remain Shackled for County CourtAppearances, Palm Beach Post, August 3, 2007, http://www.palmbeachpost.com/localnews/
content/local_news/epaper/2007/08/03/s3bshackles_0803.html (last visited August 16, 2007).
33 http://dockets.justia.com/docket/court-flsdce/case no-9:2007cv80761/case id-301601/ (last visited September 25, 2008.)
3http://dev.iamforkids.org/News/index.php?m=211 181 16'('&pagd= 14 (last viewed on September 25, 2008.)
Shttp:/ /www.floridabar.org/DIVCOM/JN/JNNews01.nsf/Articles /7CE5FC18CEAOAAF58525749C00486A8B (last visited September
36 Demeanor Descriptions:
Compliant responds appropriately and timely to requests and questions, demonstrates respect for authority of lawyers, judge, other court
Withdrawn does not respond to requests or questions; may require prompting and then provides limited, subdued answers, or responses
(may include movements in response to requests), does not make eye contact with authority figures
Defiant does not respond to requests, responds to requests only after repeated prompting, or responds inappropriately (loud, disrespectful
language, interrupting, etc.); belligerent language or gestures
Aggressive sudden and/or purposeful body movements that elicit a negative response from authority figures; threatening language or
37 Martha T. Moore, ShouldKids Go to Court in Chains?, USA TODAY, June 18, 2007, at 1A-2A, http://www.usatoday.com/news/
nation/2007-06-17-shackles_N.htm (last visited August 16, 2007).
38 Tiffany A. v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County. 150 Cal.App. 4th 1344, 1362 (2007).
39Supra, note 37.
4 In re Stanley, 364 N.E. 2d 72 (1977).
41Temporary Emergency Order Establishing Procedures for the Use of Physical Restraints, State of New Mexico, County of Dona Ana,
Third Judicial District.
4In re R.W.S.. 728 N.W.2d 326 (2007).
3Jonathan D. Jones, Group: Limit Use ofC on Kids, Greensboro News Record, February 5, 2007, http://www.news-record.com/apps/
pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070205/NEWSRECO101/702050304/-1/NEWSRECO201 (last visited August 16, 2007).
45Rule Needs Review, Greensboro News Record, February 11, 2007, http://www.news-record.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070211/
NEWSREC010201/702110318/1014/NEWSRECO20201 (last visited August 16, 2007).
48 State ex relJuv. Dept. v. Mildcan, 906 P2d 857 (1995).
4 For a state by state chart of policies relating to shackling, see Perlmutter, B. P. (2007). "Unchain the Children": Gault, Therapeutic Juris-
prudence, and Shackling, Barry Law Review, Appendix.
50 Supra, note 2.
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