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ACLU rejoices: Children no longer routinely shackled in court

“Thousands of Iowa children like Lizzy, pictured above with her mom, Laura, will no longer routinely be shackled when appearing in juvenile state court.”
Photo via the ACLU

DES MOINES – The ACLU rejoiced this week at a rule change that bars the routine shackling of children in Iowa courts.

According to the ACLU, “Thousands of Iowa children will no longer routinely be shackled when appearing in juvenile state court – the result of a rule change by the Iowa Supreme Court. We are proud that this rule change was prompted by a coalition consisting of the ACLU of Iowa, Drake University’s Middleton Center for Children’s Rights, the Iowa-Nebraska and the Des Moines branch of the NAACP, the Youth Law Center, LULAC of Iowa, Disability Rights Iowa, the National Juvenile Defender Center, the American Orthopsychiatric Association, and the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice.”

The ACLU points to an Ankeny teen, Lizzy, who was just 15 when she had to appear in court in hand and foot shackles connected with a chain. She was with court officers the entire time and armed guards were stationed throughout the courthouse.

“The shackles were so tight her ankles started to bleed onto her shoes. She was ashamed and crying, but couldn’t even wipe her dripping nose.”

“I wasn’t a flight risk,” the ACLU reports Lizzy said. “There was no reason for me to have those on.” Further, she said, the trauma, pain, and difficulty of being shackled “like an animal” made it hard for her to talk, to listen, and even to make eye contact with the judge.

The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) claims that shackling children as young as 10 “is psychologically traumatic and damaging. Shackling also makes it harder for children to follow judges’ instructions, take notes, recall facts, and be able to speak effectively with judges and their lawyers. That’s no way to make sure children receive justice or are able to move forward in a positive way.”

Reportedly, the rule change is the result of over two years of effort by an ACLU affiliate.

“Stopping this barbaric practice is a tremendous victory that will have an impact on Iowa children for decades to come,” the ACLU said.

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