Last Monday, The Denver Post published an article criticizing courts’ inappropriate handling of children as criminals. The article stood out for its heart-breaking opening:
He tried to hide the tears from his mother.
But the bright orange handcuffs locked his wrists together, and eventually he gave up trying to tug his T-shirt up to his face to wipe them away.”
Journalist Jordan Steffen’s description evokes strong feelings against a court system that mistreats young children in court. When courts treat minor offenders—charged, for example, with stealing candy bars from a convenience store—like criminals, they reduce children’s sense of self-worth and increase the likelihood that they will re-offend.
Children as young as ten, explains Steffen, are restrained with heavy wrists, ankle cuffs, and even wraps around their waist. His accusations against the court system reveal a kind of institutional blindness that fails to recognize its own faults.
Why the state is allowed to do things to children that parents wouldn’t be allowed to do isn’t something you could ever explain to a child. Because there is no good explanation for it,” said Ann Roan, state training director for juvenile defense for the Office of the State Public Defender.
“When we reviewed [law enforcement], we realized the juveniles were handcuffed or shackled more often than the adults,” said Mark Techmeyer, spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. “They were being held to a different standard.”
It’s embarrassing to see how children are abused by institutions that were meant to protect them. The preservation of children’s dignity—of children’s right to conceal their suffering—should always be worth more than a few candy bars.
—Alexia Raynal, Zeteo Deputy Editor
To read more posts in the fields of children and childhood by Alexia Raynal, visit her ZiR page here.
Cover image unknown. Featured image of 10-year-old boy standing shackled with mother in Florida (2007) was provided by Associated Press and featured by The Denver Post.