Innocent Until Proven Guilty

(April 7) – A bill by Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, to prohibit the shackling of juveniles in courtrooms earned final approval from the House on a 38-26 vote this morning.

“Our juvenile justice system is about rehabilitation,” said Rep. Lontine. “Shackling our youth is not rehabilitation—it causes psychological trauma. This bill strikes a fair balance that recognizes the safety and authority of the courtroom and implements a uniform practice across the state that respects the rights of our children and the presumption of innocence.”

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.

Indiscriminate shackling unnecessarily humiliates and traumatizes children who have not yet been sentenced. The practice of shackling adults was ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court to violate the presumption of innocence, yet shackling of youth remains a common practice.

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. Colorado would become the 23rd state in the nation to limit the automatic shackling of children.

The vote sends the bill to the Senate for consideration.

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