Perhaps the ninth time will be the charm for lawmakers who want to ban the routine shackling of juvenile defendants in Minnesota courtrooms. Every year since 2013, legislation to do so has fallen short.
If this year’s bipartisan attempt does pass, Minnesota would join at least 32 other states and the District of Columbia that have at least some limits on making kids shuffle into court in irons, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Only 11 other states ban the routine shackling of children by law, but many others do so by statewide court policy or other means. New York could soon ban the shackling of children appearing in family court, as reported last month in The Imprint.
In Minnesota, the practice varies from county to county, with some allowing restraints only with judicial consent and others having no restrictions at all.
Backers say the practice is humiliating, dehumanizing and damaging to children. They also claim the practice of shackling children violates the legal presumption of innocence. Although juries are not used in juvenile courts, youth advocates say even judges can be subtly influenced by the sight of a shackled defendant.
Proponents also say the automatic use of restraints undermines the juvenile justice system’s goal of rehabilitating children.
The juvenile restraints provision is part of a larger package of juvenile justice reforms included in the House-passed public safety bill. But it’s caught up in a legislative dispute over how to avoid a government shutdown during the current special session. On July 1, lawmakers avoided a partial government shutdown, and the measure’s chance of passage after eight straight years where it has failed is considered strong.