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Stopping the Practice of Shackling Children Who Appear in Juvenile Court

WHEREAS, it has been the policy and practice of Juvenile Court(s) to restrain detained children who appear at hearings before the court; and

WHEREAS, under this policy and practice, detained children are transported to and from court wearing leg shackles and handcuffs, and remain shackled and handcuffed during court hearings; and

WHEREAS, restraining shackled children during hearings is incompatible with juvenile courts' goal of rehabilitating and treating children who appear before the court; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Marty Beyer, one of the nation's leading experts in child and adolescent development, states that "being shackled in public is humiliating for young people whose sense of identity is vulnerable"; and

WHEREAS, the young person who feels he/she is being treated like a dangerous animal will think less of him/herself; and

WHEREAS, children and adolescents are more vulnerable to lasting harm from feeling humiliation and shame than adults; and

WHEREAS, shackling and handcuffing children during court proceedings undermines the youth's right to a fair trial because shackles convey to the judge an unmistakable message: the child is dangerous and likely committed the act(s) giving rise to the delinquency charge(s); and

WHEREAS, restraining undermines the presumption of innocence, thereby denying them a fair trial; and

WHEREAS, handcuffing children during court hearings interferes with their constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel; and

WHEREAS, children who remain handcuffed during court proceedings are unable to write notes to their lawyers, a common practice of communication between a lawyer and client at trial and other court proceedings; and

WHEREAS, children who are prevented from communicating with their lawyer in this manner may be deprived of the effective assistance of counsel; and

WHEREAS, in contrast to how children are restrained in juvenile court, adults who are detained are not shackled or handcuffed during court proceedings, absent particularized evidence that such restraint is necessary in a given case; and

WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court has held that where a person is not detained for punishment as a convicted criminal, due process forbids the use of restraints "except when and to the extent professional judgment deems this necessary." Youngblood v. Romero, 457 U.S. 307, 324 (1982); and

WHEREAS, a trend has emerged nationally to unshackle youth who appear in juvenile court; and

WHEREAS, in 2009, the Florida Supreme Court prohibited the indiscriminate use of shackling and established a presumption against restraining children when they appear at judicial proceedings; and

WHEREAS, several other states- New York, Massachusetts, California, North Dakota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Alaska - have followed suit.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) stands to condemn the routine shackling and handcuffing of youth who appear in juvenile court(s) absent a showing of particularized need to use such restraints in a specific case; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that each Unit send a letter to their local juvenile court Judge(s) informing them that we strongly condemn the practice of routinely shackling and handcuffing youth who appear before their court; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that State Conferences will advocate for State legislation that discourages shackling juveniles whenever possible; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the President of each unit, branch, chapter or council hold a press conference and/or draft a press release condemning the routine shackling and handcuffing of youth who appear in juvenile court absent a showing of particularized need to use such restraints in a specific case.