An average of 42 defendants in custody pass through Milwaukee County intake court every day, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Some are charged with violent crimes; others simply can’t afford to pay their way out of jail. All of them, including those charged with traffic crimes, are shackled. The decision about how to restrain people charged with crimes should be based on the nature of the charges and the defendants’ behavior, not on their income, argues defense attorney Paul Ksicinski.
“If this man is presumed innocent, the sheriff’s department has the duty, has the obligation, to treat him as innocent,” says Ksicinski. Shackling defendants who are accused of non-violent crimes and who have not disrupted courtroom proceedings is unconstitutional, he maintains. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr., who started the policy, says it’s not punishment; it’s all about safety. The question of whether shackles are constitutional has come up repeatedly in other states, most often in the cases of juveniles and pregnant women. In Milwaukee, because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that body cavity strip-searches of pre-trial defendants are constitutional, the less intrusive shackling for a short court hearing must be, too, reasoned Judge Ellen Brostrom.