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ACLU asks Supreme Court of Ohio to strike down indiscriminate shackling of children in the courtroom

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Mar 11, 2014 at 1:07 PM

The ACLU of Ohio has filed a writ with the Supreme Court of Ohio, asking for a ruling that prohibits juvenile courts from shackling children without first holding a hearing to determine if it is necessary.

Adult courts already require these hearings, and 11 states have also banned indiscriminate juvenile shackling. Nevertheless, juvenile courts in Ohio have been allowed to shackle children without holding a hearing, regardless of the child’s age or the charges against them.

“Right now, courts in Ohio are doing to children what it is illegal to do to adults,” said ACLU of Ohio Senior Staff Attorney Jennifer Martinez Atzberger. “The mission of the juvenile court system is rehabilitation. Putting non-violent children in chains undermines that mission.”

“Courts in many other states have already struck down the indiscriminate shackling of juveniles,” added Atzberger. “Today we are asking the Supreme Court of Ohio to do the same.”

The ACLU court filing deals specifically with a 14-year-old girl who has been charged with a non-violent drug offense in Hamilton County Juvenile Court. On March 7, the court forced the girl to appear in full body shackles without holding a hearing to determine if there was any actual need to restrain her. The child’s attorney had filed a motion with the court specifically requesting that she be allowed to appear unrestrained.

“This child is five-foot-two. She has been charged with a non-violent offense, and she has no prior criminal record,” said Atzberger. “A judge should be looking at facts like these to determine whether children really need to be locked in chains to keep court personnel safe. If the judge determines that restraints are truly necessary, the court still has the option to use them.”

“These hearings are not just a formality; they are an essential part of due process under the law,” Atzberger added. “As adults, we demand these rights. Children deserve no less.”

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