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Amendment to MA Trial Ct. Policy on Restraints in Juvenile Ct. 2009

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The Trial Comt of the Commonwealth Cow:t Officer Policy and Procedures Manual,
Chapter 4, Courtroom Procedures, Section VI; Juvenile Court Sessions is hereby amended by
inserting the following:
Use of Restraints in the Juvenile Court Department


Pur pose. The purpose of this subsection is to provide procedures and guidelines and
promote unifo1mity in practice when using restraints on jttveniles that appear before the
Juvenile Comt_


Applicability. Tllis subsection is applicable to all Divisions ofthe Juvenile Court and to
all proceedings within the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court, and to any and all stages of
those proceedings.


Definitions. Juveniles- Persons appearing before the Juvenile Court under the age of
seventeen in delinquency m1d children in need of services cases, under the age of eighteen
in care and protection cases and under the age of twenty-one in youthft1l offender cases;
Restraints - Devices that limit voluntary physical movement of an individual. The only
instruments of restraint approved by the Security Department are handcuffs and leg irons,
also known as shacldes (See chapter 11).


Presumption Againgt Use of Restraints. There is a presumption that restraints shall be
removed from juveniles while appearing in a courtroom before a j ustice ofthe Juvenile


Use of Restraints on Juveniles Appearing Before the Juvenile Court Restraints may
not be used on juveniles during court proceedings and must be removed prior to the
appearance of juveniles before the court at any stage of any proceeding, unless the justice
presiding in the couruoom issues an order and makes specific findings on the record that
restraints are necessary because there is reason to believe that a juvenile may try to
escape, or that a juvenile may pose a threat to his or her own safety, or to the safety of
other people in the courtroom, or restraints are reasonably necessary to maintain order in
the courtroom. The justice presiding in the courtroom shall consider one or more of the
following factors prior to issua.'1ce of any order and findings: (a) the seriousness of the
present charge (supporting a concern that the juvenile had an incentive to attempt to
escape); (b) the criminal history of the juvenile; (c) any past disruptive courtroom
behavior by the juvenile; (d) any past behavior that the juvenile presented a threat to his
or her own safety, or the safety of other people; (e) any present behavior that the juvenile
represents a current threat to his or her mvn safety, or the safety of other people in the
courtroom; (f) any past escapes, or attempted escapes; (g) risk of flight from the

courtroom; (h) any threats ofha1m to others, or threats to cause a disturbance, and (i) the
security situation in the courtroom and courthouse, including risk of gang violence, or ·
attempted revenge by others_

It shall be the responsibility of the court officer charged with custody of a juvenile to
report any security concerns with said juvenile to the justice presiding in the courtroom.
The justice presiding in the courtroom may attach significance to the report and
recommendation of the court officer charged with custody of the j1..1venile, but shall not
cede responsibility for dete1mini...11g the use of restraints in the courtroom to the conrt
officer. The justice presiding in the courtroo111 may receive information from the court
officer charged with custody of the juvenile, a probation officer, or any source which the
court determines in its discretion to be credible on the issue of courtroom or courlhouse
The decision to use restraints shall be the sole determination of the Juvenile Court justice
who is presiding in the courtroom at the time that a juvenile appears before the court. No
Juvenile Court justice shall impose a blanket policy to maintain restraints on all juveniles,
or a specific category of j uveniles, who appear before the conrt.


This amendment to the Trial Court of the Commonwealth Court Officer Policy and
Procedures M anual prohibits the use of restraints on juveniles in the courtroom without an order
and specific finding by a Juveni le Court justice that restraints are necessary because there is
reason to believe that the juvenile may h-y to escape, or th at the j uvenile rnay pose a threat to his
or her own safety, or to the safety of other people in the courtroom, or if it is reasonably
necessary to maintain order in the courtroom. Jn some cases~ the Juvenile Court justice, with
information from the court officer charged with custody of the juvenile and defense counsel, will
be able-to decide in advance whether restraints are necessary during the· appearance of a juvenile.
Jn thos e cases, the justice is still be required to issue an order and make specific findings on the
record that restraints are necessary.
The Supreme Court of Illinois stated over thirty years ago that "shackling ... ofthe
accused should be avoided if possible because: (1) it tends to prejudice the jury againstihe
accused; (2) it restricts his ability to assist his counsel during trial; and (3) it offends the dignity
of the judicial process ." People v. Boose, 66 Ill. 2d 261, 265~266 (1977). "The possibility of
prejudicing a jury, however, is not th e only reason why courts should not allow the shackling of
an accused in the absence of a strong necessity for doing so. The presumption of innocence is
central to our administration of c:timinal justice. In the absence of exceptional c ircumstances, an
accused has the right to stand trial 'with the appearcu1.ce, dignity, and self-respect of a free and
innocent man. "'in rr!. Dervvin Stanley, 67 Ill. 2d 33, 37 (1977). Massachusetts cases are in accord
as it relates to trial of an adult defendant i11 a criminal case before a jury. See Commonwealth v.
Brown, 364 Mass. 47 1, 475 (1973) .

Sbackling of juveniles in courtroom proceedings is antithetical to the JLtvenile Court goals of rehabilitation and treatment. California, Connecticut, Florida, New Mexico, New York,
North Dakota, North CaJ. olina and Vermont do not shackle juveniles as a result of State Supreme
Court decisions that have ruled against blanket shackling orders for juveniles, or statutes that
prohibit unnecessary restraints. See Tiffetny A. v. The Superior Court ofLos Angeles Counry, 150
CaL App . 4tb 1344, 1362 (2007)G uveni le court could not use shackles on minors "absent an
individualized determination of need").
The United States Supreme Cotul. bas not addressed the issue of whether juveniles
the right to appear in court without shackles. The Florida Supreme Court in approving an
amendment to the Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure on December 17, 2009, found lhat the
blanket practice of shackling young defendants was "repugnant, degrading, humiliating, and
contrary to the stated primary purpose of the juvenile justice system . . .." The court further
stated that "[w]e recognize, without decidin g, that indiscriminate use of restraints on children in
the courtroom in juvenile delinquency proceedings may vio late tl1e children's due process rights
and infringe on their right to counsel. We agree ... that the presumption should be that children
not restrained when appearing in court and that restraints may be used only upon an
individualized detennination that such restraints are necessary."