Steven Teske is chief judge of the Juvenile Court of Clayton County, Ga., and vice chairman of the Governor's Office For Children and Families. He is a past president of the Council of Juvenile Court Judges and has been appointed by the governor to the Children & Youth Coordinating Council, DJJ Judicial Advisory Council, Commission on Family Violence, and the Governor's Office for Children and Families.
To shackle, or not to shackle — that is the question seldom asked in many juvenile courts. The indiscriminate shackling of kids during courtroom proceedings begs the question: Why are we hostile toward our children? What does it say about us as a nation that we are inclined toward slapping cold, hard, metallic handcuffs, leg irons and waist chains on children without asking one simple question: Is the child a serious risk of fight or flight? How can we arbitrarily dispense with asking this simple question while simultaneously preaching the virtues of due process that are so imbedded in our values and beliefs? We swore to protect the constitutional right to presumption of innocence — yet we parade children into our courtrooms shackled like animals.
Like the nonresponsive kids, there will always be nonresponsive adults who reject the best practices approach. They suffer from “militant ignorance,” or a conscious disregard of the truth to avoid a universal truth — that everyone sins. To acknowledge this truth is to acknowledge their own imperfection.
The Senate Judiciary hearing opened all the doors to let the sunshine in so everything can be disinfected. The oversight and accountability changes to the bill will be very helpful in the disinfection process, including a mandate that any requirements made on the states will be subject to notice and comment.