Calling the widespread shackling of juveniles in court “repugnant, degrading [and] humiliating,” the Florida Supreme Court has barred the restraint of juvenile offenders unless a judge finds that the youth is likely to be violent, reports the Miami Herald. The court adopted the recommendations of a national advocacy group, the National Juvenile Defender Center, which argued that the wholesale shackling of juveniles is contrary to the purpose of rehabilitating youths.
The new rules reverse a long-standing practice in many courthouses of permitting juvenile defendants to be handcuffed and leg-shackled for all court appearances, regardless of whether they are believed to be dangerous. In Broward County, Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said, juveniles are “paraded” through the courthouse in shackles. Yesterday’s high-court decision comes at a time of uncertainty for juvenile-justice systems in many states.The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether sentencing adolescents to life in prison without parole for non-homicide convictions violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.