Supreme Court Subcommittee to Offer Juvenile Courts Guidance on Restraining Juveniles in Court
An Ohio Supreme Court subcommittee will examine and deliver recommendations concerning policies juvenile courts must follow when considering whether youths should be restrained during court proceedings.
Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor met today with the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio to outline her action plan to address the issue. The shackling of juveniles has gained increasing national attention and has raised concerns about its usage.
"There is an emerging state and national discussion on this issue," Chief Justice O'Connor said. "The American Bar Association and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges recently weighed in on the practice and the need for reform. Even before being approached by the ACLU earlier this summer, working groups were being formed to examine best practices and make recommendations. Survey results about juvenile courts' practices in this arena and the concerns raised by the ACLU and others bolster the need to examine and address this issue as soon as possible. When we are approached by the ACLU or other public interest groups about a problem we work to address them right away."
It's expected that the Juvenile Justice Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee on Children & Families will make proposals for rule and policy changes by mid-October, including the possible mandate that Ohio juvenile courts adopt a local court rule regarding the use of juvenile restraints in court proceedings. Chief Justice O’Connor noted, “We must balance the safety of the juvenile and others in court proceedings with the rehabilitative focus that is at the core of our juvenile court system. Clearly there are circumstances where restraints are needed. But blanket restraint policies that do not consider the least restrictive means backed by findings that restraints in individual cases are necessary seems contrary to that purpose.”
The Chief Justice will also work with the Ohio Judicial College to embed within the training it offers to juvenile court judges, magistrates, and probation officers research findings that indicate that restraining juveniles during court proceedings exacerbate the trauma they experience. "This is precisely the reason that the use of restraints should be based on findings that balance safety considerations with the individual circumstances of youths in the juvenile court system," Chief Justice O'Connor stated.