Juvenile defendants are no longer routinely shackled in Hamilton County Juvenile Judge Tracie M. Hunter's courtroom, ending a practice of more than 20 years.
Hunter said she believes the blanket policy of shackling juveniles is not in the best interest of children and contrary to evidence-based best practices. After rolling out the no-shackling policy in her courtroom Monday, Hunter plans to ban shackling during all courtroom proceedings under her jurisdiction in Juvenile Court, once it is safely implemented.
Hunter's order permits the use of shackles only in cases where it is shown that the juvenile is a danger to him/herself, a danger to the public or a risk to attempt escape. The state, sheriff or any impacted party may motion the court to shackle for good cause on a case-by-case basis. A hearing would then determine if shackling is in best interest of the child.
"The routine shackling of juveniles, regardless of the type of offense and regardless of whether they present a danger or threat of harm, negates the presumption that they are innocent before being adjudicated delinquent, and is not in the best interest of all children, according to the latest research," Hunter said.
Juveniles in Hamilton County routinely appear in court in leg shackles, handcuffs and a belly belt or stomach chains, regardless of how minor or severe the alleged offense.
Hunter believes the court must differentiate between cases where juveniles are charged with violent offenses versus non-violent offenses, and identify those children who are more likely to attempt to escape versus those with no escape history.
Hamilton County Juvenile Court, like many juvenile courts across Ohio, have received low marks when evaluated on implementing best practices in regard to shackling juveniles, Hunter said. Florida, Pennsylvania and Illinois have already banned or reformed the policy of shackling juveniles in the courtroom.
Hunter said she met with Sheriff Jim Neil and all of Juvenile Court's security team before issuing her no-shackling order.