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In the past, youth in the juvenile court were handcuffed around the wrists, ankles and stomach while appearing before a judge, regardless of the crime. Children younger than 12 were brought into courtrooms looking already guilty to whatever awaited them from the bench.
Over 100,000 children in America were indiscriminately shackled every year. SC Bar member Jay Elliott said it was enough.
Legislation was introduced in South Carolina to prohibit the indiscriminate use of shackles in 2013, but the legislation did not move ahead. That’s when Elliott decided to take the matter to the SC Bar House of Delegates.
The House of Delegates passed a resolution, urging the General Assembly to adopt legislation that “restricts the shackling of juveniles in court proceedings, limiting use of restraints on juveniles to those who pose risk of harm to themselves or others, a risk of flight or disruption in the courtroom, and an opportunity for the juvenile to be heard before restraints are employed.”
Four months later, the legislation passed without an opposing vote.
After the Bar’s resolution and statewide law, Elliott’s next goal was to take the movement national.
The American Bar Association House of Delegates adopted a resolution similar to that of the South Carolina Bar during its Midyear Meeting in 2015.
“People are to be treated with dignity and respect, including the youngest,” Elliott said in his speech to the ABA House of Delegates.
At the end of the meeting, the votes were cast, and the ABA passed the resolution to ban juvenile shackling. A total of 31 states and the District of Columbia have laws or policies that ban the indiscriminate shackling of youth.
Thanks to the leadership and advocacy of Elliott and others at the SC Bar and the ABA, children across the nation have a chance at a fair trial with the presumption of innocence.
Every two years, the ABA selects one resolution from among hundreds to showcase the national impact its recommendations can have. This year, the ABA selected this one to present to its House of Delegates and disseminate nationwide. The video features Elliott and other delegates calling for a stand against the unjust treatment of juvenile defendants in the nation’s courts.