18:39 GMT13 April 2021
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    Beginning November 1, the state of Illinois will end the practice of automatically shackling minors during court hearings, instead deciding whether to do so on a case-by-case basis.

    Last Thursday, the state’s Supreme Court ruled that shackling may only be used if a minor poses a threat to themselves or others, or is at risk of fleeing. Additionally, in cases where the judge determines shackles necessary, the “least restrictive restraints” possible must be used.

    The indiscriminate shackling of minors is widely recognized as being counterproductive and dehumanizing. It also impedes a minor’s right to participate in their own defense, as they cannot take notes.

    “Shackling practices vary by county, but some judges have required shackling of every child entering a courtroom, regardless of the child’s age, the severity of the alleged offense, or the lack of any evidence that the child posed a threat to the security of anyone in the courtroom,” Era Laudermilk, deputy director of the Illinois Justice Project, a nonprofit group fighting the practice of shackling juveniles, wrote in a statement last week. 

    “Because our Supreme Court justices understand that indiscriminate shackling of children runs counter to the rehabilitative purpose of juvenile courts, all children will be treated humanely in Illinois courtrooms.”

    The state has not banned the practice of shackling minors entirely, but the ruling is being widely regarded as a step in the right direction.

    “Putting boys and girls in leg irons and belly chains should only be done as a last resort,” the Illinois Justice Project statement continued. “It humiliates and traumatizes children and it is heartbreaking for their families.”

    In 2015, the American Bar Association adopted a resolution calling for the end of indiscriminate juvenile shackling. Multiple other organizations, including the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and many others are calling for restrictions, the Illinois Justice Project notes.

    Currently, 12 states ban the practice outright, while 10 other states have limits in place, the National Conference of State Legislatures reports.

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    Tags:
    Juvenile Court, National Conference of State Legislatures, Illinois Justice Project, Illinois Supreme Court, Era Laudermilk, Illinois
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