For the first time in 20 years, juvenile defendants
appearing in Judge Tracie Hunter's courtroom will no longer be shackled.
For decades, juveniles have been transferred to Judge
Hunter's court wearing stomach, leg, and hand shackles during their individual
Judge Hunter implemented the policy April 9, while away, to
give Juvenile Court time to prepare for the first hearing upon her return from
judicial conferences. She immediately enforced her no shackling order on
Judge Hunter believes that the blanket policy of shackling
juveniles is not in the best interest of children and contrary to evidence
based best practices.
"The research shows that by shackling juveniles that
you're treating them as though they are guilty or that they have been
adjudicated when in fact they're just here for a hearing," explained Judge
After initially rolling out the no shackling policy in her
courtroom only, Judge Hunter plans to eventually ban shackling during all
courtroom proceedings under her jurisdiction in Juvenile Court, once it is
"They're already traumatized when they come to court
and so when we further traumatize them by shackling them, then we're not
helping the situation, and we're certainly not helping to re-habilitate
them," said Hunter.
There are times when the policy can be changed. For
instance, if the juvenile is at risk of harm to his or herself, the public, the
staff, or if there's a chance they'll escape.
"The only way that they would be shackled is if someone
whether it's the state, the prosecution, or the sheriff who is transporting the
juvenile specifically makes a request that they be shackled," said Hunter.
Hunter says a handful of states including New York,
Illinois, and Florida have tried similar policies and seen success. She says
the entire state of Ohio needs to improve the way we treat our youth in court.
"We're getting F's and D's by agencies that look at
courtroom polices and how we're treating our juveniles," added Hunter.
FOX19 reached out to some prosecutors who have expressed
concern with the judge's new policy but couldn't be reached for comment.
Judge Hunter hopes to see Hamilton County be an example for
the rest of Ohio.
Sunday, August 31 2014 3:28 PM EDT2014-08-31 19:28:29 GMT
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