Freeing Kids from Shackles Passes First Test

(March 22) – A bill by Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, to prohibit the shackling of juveniles in court rooms passed the House Judiciary Committee on a 6-4 vote this afternoon. HB16-1331 mandates that restraints—including handcuffs, chains, shackles, irons, or a straitjacket—must be taken off of a juvenile before a court proceeding, unless the court determines that these are necessary to prevent physical harm, disruption, or the fleeing of a juvenile from the courtroom.

“Our juvenile justice system is supposed to be about rehabilitation,” said Rep. Lontine. “But when we send these kids to court in shackles, we cause them psychological trauma. This is not a foundation in rehabilitation—the research is clear on this. This bill strikes a fair balance that recognizes the safety and decorum of the courtroom and implements a uniform practice across the state that respects the rights of our children.”

Currently, 18 of Colorado’s 22 judicial districts have some kind of policy on shackling. These policies vary widely and include loopholes that allow many juveniles to still be shackled in court. This bill aims to create uniformity across Colorado.

Sheila Littlejohn Price testified in support of the bill after seeing her own daughter, with no criminal history, in full shackles—her wrists and ankles connected with rings and attached to her waist by chains —during a court proceeding. “Placing her in shackles in my opinion was a cruel and unusual punishment,” said Price.

The party-line vote sends the bill to the House floor for second reading.

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