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State panel votes to restrict youth shackling

Rachel Baye

A state panel voted Thursday to restrict when and how the Department of Juvenile Services shackles children in its custody while transporting them to and from detention centers. The recommendations will result in changes to department policy and, in some cases, state law.

The group recommended releasing children from restraints for at least five minutes every four hours during long trips and while using the bathroom. Children also shouldn’t be shackled when they’re being released, the group decided, or when they’re going home for a visit earned through good behavior.

Some of the recommendations were less conclusive, such as whether the Department of Juvenile Services will forgo mechanical restraints when carrying youth from less secure facilities. The committee recommended that the department “evaluate” the possibility.

“All it really says is — it’s not offering us a policy,” said Public Defender Paul DeWolfe. “It says that we’ll think about it.”

But Secretary of Juvenile Services Sam Abed said the language in the recommendation allows the flexibility to be creative in how the department reduces the use of shackles within the constraints of the state budget.

Other recommendations are likely to be proposed as legislation, such as allowing children to videoconference into court to avoid transport, and barring children younger than 13 from being sent to secure detention facilities at all.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom. @RachelBaye
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