The Illinois Supreme Court has adopted (Oct. 6) a rule explicitly prohibiting the indiscriminate shackling of children in juvenile delinquency proceedings.  The rule had been requested by a large coalition of juvenile justice reform advocates and justice organizations -- including the Illinois Justice Project.

Under the new rule, the use of restraints will be permitted if the presiding juvenile court judge finds that shackling is necessary for the safety and security of the child and/or others and that there are no less restrictive alternatives available. The rule will eliminate the prejudicial impact of shackling in court and the emotional and psychological harm experienced by youth.

Text of the new rule is HERE

The Illinois Justice Project issued the following statement.

Era Laudermilk, Deputy Director of the Illinois Justice Project, said: 

We commend the justices of the Illinois Supreme Court for acting in the best interests of children in the juvenile justice system. With this new rule, the justices have made clear that unnecessary shackling of children in courtrooms will not be tolerated. 

Shackling practices vary by county, but some judges have required shackling of every child entering a courtroom, regardless of the child’s age, the severity of the alleged offense, or the lack of any evidence that the child posed a threat to the security of anyone in the courtroom. 

Putting boys and girls in leg irons and belly chains should only be done as a last resort.  It humiliates and traumatizes children and it is heartbreaking for their families to see their children brought to court in chains. 

Shackling not only can cause lasting mental harm, it can make it more difficult for children to communicate with their attorneys and comprehend what is happening in the courtroom.

Because our Supreme Court justices understand that indiscriminate shackling of children runs counter to the rehabilitative purpose of juvenile courts, all children will be treated humanely in Illinois courtrooms. 


On July 8, 2016, the Illinois Supreme Court Rules Committee conducted a public hearing on the proposed rule.  

The committee heard testimony in support of the rule change from a retired circuit court judge, a clinical psychologist with decades of experience working with youth involved in the juvenile justice system, a law professor who represents youth in juvenile court, and the president of the Illinois State Bar Association. There was no opposing testimony.

Click on names below for PDFs of written testimony: 

Paul Cain
Clinical Law Professor, NIU College of Law
First Vice-President, Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers 

Eugene Griffin, J.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Northwestern University Medical School, Retired
Illinois Childhood Trauma Coalition, Executive Committee
Director of Research, ChildTrauma Academy

Judge Elizabeth Robb, Ret.
Former Chief Circuit Judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit

The following resources provide additional information about the proposed rule and the harm caused by the indiscriminate shackling - including leg irons, manacles chains and handcuffs.

Shackling a youth can become a negative, self-fulfilling prophecy.  Shackling youth who do not have a history of violence or running can make it more likely that they will engage in future acts of violence and running.  It can also interfere with a youth's ability to communicate with his attorney and understand the court proceedings."