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IL Courts say Unshackling Law is Beneficial to Juveniles

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It's been a year since Illinois eliminated a rule about shackling young inmates in court. (fbi.gov)
It's been a year since Illinois eliminated a rule about shackling young inmates in court. (fbi.gov)
 By Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL, Contact
November 30, 2017

Re-sending to correct wording in fifth paragraph.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — It's been just over a year since the Illinois Supreme Court moved to end indiscriminate shackling of children in court, and judges across the state say it's working well.

Rule 943 went into effect in November 2016. It mandates restraints not be used on a minor during a court proceeding unless the court finds, after a hearing, that it's necessary for safety reasons - including fear that juveniles might harm themselves or others, or that they are a flight risk.

DuPage County Circuit Judge Bob Anderson said he applauds the law.

"These are kids,” Anderson said. "Many of these kids have undergone serious trauma in their lives and it's very traumatic for them to come into a courtroom in shackles like that."

Judges in all Illinois counties have implemented the new rule, and no problems have been reported, but Winnebago County asked for additional security officers.

Winnebago Associate Judge Patrick Yarbrough said many people have a preconceived notion that these are 10-year-old kids who have been busted for shoplifting. But he said that isn't usually the case.

"A lot of them have charges with violent offenses: aggravated battery, aggravated discharge of a firearm, attempted murder and murder charges,” Yarbrough said. "And when that information is brought before the court, then the court will decide whether that person needs to be placed in shackles."

Anderson said he believes judges have options other than locking young people up. He said treatment programs and home detention can be very effective, and said that juvenile court has been the best assignment he's ever had as a judge.

"It's one of the few places where you can change the future in a good way. It doesn't happen every day, but every day you've got that opportunity,” Anderson said. "And the key is, if we can deal with this when these children are young, hopefully we can keep them out of the court system "

A campaign by the National Juvenile Defender Center has convinced several states, including Illinois, to ban the use of handcuffs and shackles on children in courtrooms - but they're still used to transport children from detention to court.

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