Federal Judge to Rule on Florida Shackling Policy

Here’s a case brought by Carey Haughwout, a public defender in Florida, who filed a federal lawsuit in August on behalf of the state’s juveniles. She’s claiming that teens charged with such serious crimes that they are tried as adults are actually treated more gently than those adjudicated by the juvenile courts. Adults are restrained with leg irons but not handcuffs; juveniles, however, are restrained at the wrists and ankles. Haughwout is arguing that this policy is humiliating and prevents children from getting a fair trial. “It’s every child,” she said. “A 4-foot-1 child charged with a misdemeanor comes in with the same shackles as a 6-foot-1 15-year-old charged with escape.”

According to the Palm Beach Post, Haughwout is trying to “persuade juvenile court judges that most youngsters aren’t a threat, that they don’t need to be restrained with leg irons and handcuffs that are secured to a chain around their waists.” However, the paper reports that as of a hearing yesterday, “neither the judges, law enforcement officials nor the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice have been willing to draw up criteria that would determine when shackles are needed.”

The issue calls into question whether a federal judge can dictate state courtroom policy. US District Judge Donald Middlebrooks, who heard the argument, will be making a decision soon.

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