Unshackle the Children: A National Overview of State Implementation Experiences

When the Gault Center launched the Campaign Against Indiscriminate Juvenile Shackling in 2014, only 13 states had legislation, court rules, or caselaw limiting indiscriminate shackling in juvenile court. Today, 39 states, DC, and Puerto Rico limit or prohibit the indiscriminate shackling of children, while just 11 states do not.

Feedback from people in jurisdictions that have adopted reforms is promising. Incidents of flight or safety are extremely rare or nonexistent, and children and others in the courtroom have responded overwhelmingly favorably to the absence of shackles. Although limited, available data appears to validate these perceptions.

To provide a more complete picture of jurisdictions’ experiences, we conducted confidential telephone interviews with personnel from 29 of the states that have a statute, court rule, or administrative order limiting the use of indiscriminate shackling of youth in court. We asked about their involvement with reforming their state’s shackling rules and laws, obstacles to passing such reform, progress since the reform, and their perspective about any gaps in implementation.

This report offers the results of our survey interviews, as well as feedback we have received during the years we have focused on this work; information from jurisdictions currently working to reform their shackling practices; and, where available, data about shackling practices and safety. Our goals are to inform the work of youth defenders and juvenile court personnel as they strive to limit shackling and improve the juvenile courtroom environment for young people and to raise awareness of the trauma, harms, and racial disparities exacerbated by shackling.

File Type: pdf
Categories: Gault Center Publications, Research, Resource Library
Tags: Shackling