Tonight, the Student Alliance for Prison Reform chapter at Ohio State University, with the support of the ACLU in Ohio, the Campaign for Youth Justice, the Ohio Student Association, YouthMOVE Ohio, and the Juvenile Justice Coalition, will be holding a public demonstration to stop the unnecessary shackling of youth in Ohio during court proceedings. Hallie Israel, who is the SAPR Outreach Director and is the founder and president of the OSU SAPR chapter, will be heading the event.
THE ISSUE AT HAND: Children appearing in Ohio's juvenile courts may be shackled for any reason, or for no reason at all. In some counties, youth can appear in juvenile court restrained by handcuffs, chains, leg irons, and waist belts. This practice of shackling is carried out routinely, automatically, and without justification.
By international standards, the routine shackling of children who pose no danger to themselves or others during juvenile court proceedings is cruel and unnecessary. Unnecessary shackling has been shown to hinder healthy identity development, unfairly label, demean, and stigmatize the child, and can even result in serious mental health and trauma disorders. Additionally, unnecessary shackling interferes with the child's right to a fair trial by creating the presumption that the child is delinquent of the charges brought against them before a legal determination of guilt or innocence has ever been made. This policy undermines the rehabilitative focus of juvenile court and is clearly contradictory to the goals of youth justice, especially considering that juveniles are much more likely to have further involvement with the justice system if delinquent behavior is met with retribution, as opposed to rehabilitation. Additionally, minority groups as well as children affected adversely by zero tolerance policies are disproportionately victims of shackling within our communities.
Recognizing their potentially prejudicial effect, courts across the nation (including Ohio) have ruled that restraints may NOT be used on ADULT defendants during the guilt phase of trial. In 23 states (and the District of Columbia), legal action has been taken to ensure that youth have the right to the same procedural entitlement to appear free of restraints in court. Nonetheless, Ohio juveniles are denied this right.
THE DEMONSTRATION: OSU SAPR and other activists will gather on the sidewalks at the east plaza of the Ohio Union from 6-8 pm tonight, December 7, 2015, as they take a stand against this policy. During the demonstration, activists wearing glow-bracelets will stand with their wrists together in solidarity with the Ohio youth who have been adversely affected by indiscriminate, unjustified shackling. Students will also distribute further information about shackling in Ohio, as well as possible alternatives, and an ACLU of Ohio link will be distributed so that activists can send a pre-written letter to the Ohio Supreme Court to advocate that the current policy be changed.
We at SAPR believe that every child should go unrestrained, unless written findings possess that he or she presents a risk of flight or a risk to the safety of courtroom staff and visitors. Additionally, we believe that there should be standardized state guidelines to help states make this important determination.
Check out https://www.facebook.com/events/748296811969305/ to RSVP and keep updated on the event!
To submit a public comment to support the passage for Rule 5.01, which would protect the due process rights of children, and stop the automatic shackling of Ohio's children, click here.