CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - For the first time in 20 years, juvenile defendants appearing in Judge Tracie Hunter's courtroom will no longer be shackled.
For decades, juveniles have been transferred to Judge Hunter's court wearing stomach, leg, and hand shackles during their individual proceedings.
Judge Hunter implemented the policy April 9, while away, to give Juvenile Court time to prepare for the first hearing upon her return from judicial conferences. She immediately enforced her no shackling order on Monday.
Judge Hunter believes that the blanket policy of shackling juveniles is not in the best interest of children and contrary to evidence based best practices.
"The research shows that by shackling juveniles that you're treating them as though they are guilty or that they have been adjudicated when in fact they're just here for a hearing," explained Judge Hunter.
After initially rolling out the no shackling policy in her courtroom only, Judge Hunter plans to eventually ban shackling during all courtroom proceedings under her jurisdiction in Juvenile Court, once it is safely implemented.
"They're already traumatized when they come to court and so when we further traumatize them by shackling them, then we're not helping the situation, and we're certainly not helping to re-habilitate them," said Hunter.
There are times when the policy can be changed. For instance, if the juvenile is at risk of harm to his or herself, the public, the staff, or if there's a chance they'll escape.
"The only way that they would be shackled is if someone whether it's the state, the prosecution, or the sheriff who is transporting the juvenile specifically makes a request that they be shackled," said Hunter.
Hunter says a handful of states including New York, Illinois, and Florida have tried similar policies and seen success. She says the entire state of Ohio needs to improve the way we treat our youth in court.
"We're getting F's and D's by agencies that look at courtroom polices and how we're treating our juveniles," added Hunter.
FOX19 reached out to some prosecutors who have expressed concern with the judge's new policy but couldn't be reached for comment.
Judge Hunter hopes to see Hamilton County be an example for the rest of Ohio.