Youth law advocates threaten to sue Contra Costa probation over juvenile shackling

Matthias Gafni
August 28, 2015


Youths walk down a busy street, are taken to courthouse steps, and brought through a public hallway wearing handcuffs, metal belly belts, and leg shackles.

“This is like a chain gang for children,” said Youth Law Center attorney Sue Burrell. “In other counties, you don’t have the public humiliation factor that you have in Contra Costa.”

In its letter to Probation Chief Philip Kader, the  Youth Law Center wrote: “The primary goal of the delinquency process is rehabilitative rather than punitive. The practice of indiscriminate shackling of juveniles is contrary to that rehabilitative purpose, and indeed can impair the healthy development of a young person’s identity and sense of justice.”

“Young people, teenagers are not fully mature, and we don’t hold them accountable in the same way as adults, and we want them to move on from their mistakes,” Burrell said.

Burrell said risk assessment reports can determine on a individual basis whether shackles are warranted, rather than have a indiscriminate policy, which can traumatize youth.

“I think that they feel like they are treated like animals, and if you look at their posture, they’re all bent forward and very ashamed and don’t want anyone to look at them,” Burrell said. “It’s just hard to believe anyone would think of doing this to juveniles.”

Kader said he’s worked with the Youth Law Center before, and had conversations on this matter, and “these issues can be resolved.”

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Organizations mentioned/involved: Youth Law Center (YLC)
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