NCJFCJ Resolves to Stop Shackling of Children in Juvenile Court

Resolution states shackling is contrary to the goals of juvenile justice

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) has released its resolution on shackling of children in juvenile court.

“Resolutions of the NCJFCJ are how approximately 1,600 family court judges unite and speak out on important issues that face our children and families that come before all kinds of family courts across our nation,” said NCJFCJ President Judge Darlene Byrne.

“The presumption should not be only innocent until proven guilty but also a child should be presumed to be able to manage their behaviors in such a way in court as to not indiscriminately require shackling for their court hearings. The decision to shackle or not shackle should be made individually by the judge, and the presumption should be no shackles.”

Up to 90% of justice-involved youth report exposure to some type of traumatic event. The NCJFCJ defines shackles to include handcuffs, waist chains, ankle restraints, zip ties or other restraints that are designed to impede movement or control behavior.

“Across the country, tens of thousands of young people are needlessly shackled in juvenile and family courts,” said David Shapiro, campaign manager for the Campaign Against Indiscriminate Juvenile Shackling (CAIJS) at the National Juvenile Defender Center.

“The courtroom is the last place this practice should occur. Judges have a unique responsibility to ensure not only fair outcomes, but fair processes. The NCJFCJ has issued a powerful message that the practice of automatically shackling youth in our courtrooms does not comport with what it means to be fair and trauma-informed, and that such a practice will no longer be tolerated,” said Shapiro.

The NCJFCJ also recently released a resolution regarding trauma-informed juvenile and family courts, urging juvenile and family courts to be trauma-informed by engaging stakeholders, including children, parents and other court consumers, to jointly develop and implement universal precautions at an environmental, practice and policy level that limit stress often being involved when working within the court system.

To read the NCJFCJ’s resolutions and policy statements, click here.