3 minutes to read

This will be a very short post. (I think. It depends on how mad I get while writing it.) For those who hate even short amounts of reading, just scroll until you see the pretty picture.

You wouldn’t have to read this blog very long to know how I feel about shackles on children. It’s inhumane. It’s un-human. It’s sick.

I simply cannot imagine what kind of disgustingly horribly poor excuse for a human being would want to put shackles on a child, especially when leading them under armed guard from a confinement area (e.g., what we sometimes benignly refer to as “juvenile hall,” where children are held in custody) into an already locked down courtroom from which no one — not even ordinary attorneys — can escape without the special assistance of a court officer, as is the case in Fresno and some other counties where I practice law. [1]“Ordinary” attorneys are criminal defense attorneys who do not work for the government. “Ordinary” attorneys are virtually never treated as “court officers.” Public Defenders and certain “conflict counsel” — although not “private” attorneys, even if they handle conflict cases — are sometimes considered court officers and are provided with the same privileges — as they should be — that prosecutors are allowed to have; public defenders, those conflict attorneys who are not private attorneys, and prosecutors are all provided with keys they can use to “escape” from juvenile courtrooms. “Ordinary” attorneys, juveniles, and their families, are not.

That includes — perhaps above anyone else — you, judge, when you don’t question this on your own. Or when you reverse what the California Supreme Court has said by allowing the shackles until someone like me successfully challenges it. It’s supposed to be the other way around, you sick fuck. If law enforcement wants to bring a child to court in shackles, let them petition for that. Let them demonstrate just how ill they are by making them ask for permission to shackle a child.

And they will ask.

It may be — should be — hard to believe, but there are people who will fight tooth-and-nail to keep children in full shackles: feet and wrists chained to their waists.

At least if we make them ask for permission to put a child in shackles, as the California Supreme Court states the procedure should be, then we highlight the evil.

The sickness that infects judges, law enforcement, and the attorneys who are complicit in the act of shackling children because “it takes too much time to fight it,” though, is actually nothing new. From a story over at Indian Country Today Media Network:

For such small objects, the child’s handcuffs are surprisingly heavy when cradled in the palms of one’s hand. Although now rusted from years of disuse, they still convey the horror of their brutal purpose, which was to restrain Native children who were being brought to boarding schools. “I felt the weight of their metal on my heart,” said Jessica Lackey of the Cherokee tribe as she described holding the handcuffs for the first time.

Shackles for Children
Actual shackles used by the U.S. government on Native American children to drag them away from their families and send them to boarding schools where their heritage was stripped from them.

Unfortunately, it requires a heart — and the recognition that children are not just human, but are the most fragile of humans — to feel the weight of this horror. This is something sadly lacking in our justice system, but particularly in our juvenile “justice” system.

It takes a special kind of evil to want to shackle a child.

But don’t worry, all you “law and order” types — we’ve got plenty of it in our juvenile courts.


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