Mark Sorci, director of Des Moines’ Youth Law Center, says juvenile officers currently decide if young defendants are brought into a court appearance in handcuffs and possibly leg chains. “They are being shackled on their way into the courtroom. Then, it would be up to the judge to make the determination to have the child unshackled in the courtroom,” Sorci says.
Under the new rule, to take effect January 1, the judge will need to grant permission before the hearing to allow handcuffs, chains or other restraints in the courtroom. “Now the juvenile court officer or the county attorney will have to, before the court hearing, approach the court and ask the court to allow for the shackling during the procedure,” Sorci explained.
In his order, Chief Justice Cady said the new rule is flexible enough to address situations when individual juveniles may pose a risk of flight or a danger to themselves or others. A court-appointed committee recommended the change, citing mental health experts who say shackling children unnecessarily humiliates, stigmatizes, and traumatizes them, and keeps them from fully assisting in their own defense.
Iowa will become the 30th state to ban or restrict the practice. The ACLU of Iowa was among the groups requesting the rule change, claiming restraints are usually unnecessary in most cases and there are typically already armed security in Iowa courthouses.
(Thanks to Joyce Russell, Iowa Public Radio)