Updated: Del. Lawmakers Eye Limits on Shackling of Juveniles - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Updated: Del. Lawmakers Eye Limits on Shackling of Juveniles

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(Photo: CBS) (Photo: CBS)

DOVER, Del. (AP)- Delaware House lawmakers on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill limiting the use of leg shackles on defendants in Family Court juvenile delinquency proceedings.
    
Lawmakers approved the bill only after adding an amendment delaying its implementation until money is appropriated for more courthouse security.
    
Supporters of the bill say mandatory or routine use of shackles can be demeaning and cause psychological harm to a child. They argue that restraints should be used only when are there no less restrictive alternatives to prevent flight or physical harm to the child or to others, and that there should not be an automatic presumption that shackles are needed.
    
"The court has to agree that there's a need for restraints before they're placed on a juvenile," said chief bill sponsor Rep. James Johnson, D-New Castle.
    
The Division of Youth Rehabilitative Services says it would need to hire four more counselors to watch over defendants in court if shackling is limited. Legislative analysts estimate the cost to taxpayers to be more than $230,000 a year.
    
"We currently do not have the funding," said Johnson, who amended the bill to delay its effective date to six months after public notice that an appropriation has been made.
    
The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
    
House lawmakers also passed another juvenile justice reform measure that now goes to the Senate.
    
That legislation expands a voluntary civil citation program for juvenile offenders under which police can issue citations for first-time offenses such as underage drinking, loitering and disorderly conduct. The citations are considered civil infractions, meaning juveniles who comply with the terms of the program will not carry criminal records for the offenses.
    
A third reform measure, which streamlines procedures allowing certain juvenile offenders to have their criminal records expunged, cleared the Senate on Tuesday and is scheduled for a House committee hearing next week.

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