Shackling Kid Rascals

By The News Jun 18, 2007

(credit) Imagine being a 13-year-old getting into trouble. Maybe throwing eggs at cars or just flat-out stealing them. Then imagine getting arrested, thrown around by cops, and locked up. Now awaiting your sentencing, how do you see yourself walking in to the court room? Scared and tear-filled? What goes through your mind when you go to tie your shoe, only to realize again that your right foot is bound to your left and your hands to your backside? You’re not America’s next top murderer. You’re 13. Believe it or not, hand and leg shackling used for the toughest adult criminals are being employed to detain young offenders, many of whom are Black and Latino. USAToday reported:

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Handcuffs pin the teenage girl’s wrists together. The cuffs connect to a heavy chain around her waist so she can’t raise her arms. Another chain connects her ankles, shortening her step as she shuffles into the courtroom. When she shifts in her chair, the shackles clink. Malyra Perez is 14, and yes, her mother says, she is troublesome. Malyra runs away and goes to school high, her mother tells the judge. She is in court on a charge of grand theft auto. But she shouldn’t be in shackles, Myra Perez says. "I didn’t like that, not at all. She’s not a criminal." Such sentiments are being heard in courts across the nation, where there are increasingly vigorous debates over rules that require metal shackles to be used on youths who appear at juvenile court hearings. At issue is whether kids as young as 10 need to be shackled for court security, and whether putting chains on young defendants not only makes them look like criminals but also makes them more likely to think of themselves in that way.

So just to get this right: parents can’t discipline their children with belts, but our criminal justice system can do so with chains and metal?