Friday, June 5, 2009

FL: Juvenile Restraint Rules Could Change

By Gloria Gomez
Updated: Friday, 05 Jun 2009, 6:40 AM EDT
Published : Friday, 05 Jun 2009, 6:39 AM EDT

BARTOW - The four Walker Middle School teens accused of sexually assaulting a flag football teammate were in court Wednesday.

After pleading not guilty the boys were handcuffed as they left the courtroom.

The images of young defendants some as young as 11-years-old in shackles and handcuffs are common in the juvenile court system. But that may be changing.

Shondi Cole, the Juvenile Division Chief in Polk County, says there is a big push to ban the indiscriminate use of handcuffs and shackles in juvenile court.

Cole says she finds the restraint rules in juvenile court and adult court confusing and backwards.

"The adults aren't shackled when they come to court so you could have a 10-year-old that came to court on a theft charge that's shackled and you could have an adult who killed someone who isn't shackled in court," Cole told FOX 13. "It makes no sense."

A proposed court rule would allow judges to use restraints on a case by case basis, rather than a blanket rule, but some argue it would increase the danger to everyone in court.

A Tampa mother who didn't want to give her name says her son has been in and out of jail for years. She believes putting restraints on a child can be psychologically damaging.

"It traumatizes them," she said. "All I think is it traumatizes them for the rest of their lives."

Right now States Chief Justice Peggy Quince is backing the proposed court rule which means if approved, there could less and less courtroom images of kids in cuffs.

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