OC Deputy Sheriff Inmate Shackling Policy Draws Public Protests

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Protestors against shackling on Nov. 24 at Theo Lacy Facility.

This weekend, a host of community members came out to the Theo Lacy jail facility in Orange to support judicial restraint of a new policy by Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes to  shackle inmates while they are transported to court and while they await court hearings in holding cells.

Orange County Public Defenders and ACLU officials waged a legal battle against Barnes’ new policy and Nov. 18, OC Superior Court Judge Kathleen Roberts granted a motion to halt the shackling of people in custody. Roberts also issued a countywide ruling that no person is to be shackled in the courthouse holding cells without an individualized assessment.

You can read Roberts decision here.

In her decision, Judge Roberts wrote, “Blanket shackling of in-custody defendants demeans the dignity of the court process, the court room and the defendant and violates the due process rights of the accused.”

In a defiant Tweet two days later, Barnes blasted Roberts’ ruling, calling it “judicial overreach.”

Barnes argues the new policy is the product of a long classification policy review, one that aims to make court transports go faster, thus getting inmates more time out of cells overall while they are in custody,

Both sides paint a very different picture of what it feels like to be shackled.

Daisy Ramirez, a Jails Conditions & Policy Coordinator, wrote to organizers this past weekend noting, “People are awoken at 4am and shackled, with their wrists attached to their waists by six-inch chains. They aren’t released from these chains until they return to jail late at night. During their grueling 12 to 15-hour day, people cannot reach their mouths to eat, cannot use the restroom, and cannot straighten their backs. There are no exceptions for people who have disabilities or are pregnant, injured, or mentally ill. This draconian practice causes so much pain that people are pleading guilty just to avoid the chains.

Ramirez argues that Barnes’ new practice blatantly violates the Constitution.

Barnes counters that because the department is now mixing more classes of criminals together in court transports, it’s necessary to use the waist restraints to cut down on assaults.

Barnes also disputes that the restraints are unduly rough.

“In-cell video footage shows inmates eating and using the bathroom and engaging in other basic human needs, such as blowing one’s nose. The restraints, however, do accomplish the goal of limiting the type of movement that would be necessary to use violence against another inmate or staff,” reads a Nov. 20 statement Tweeted out by Barnes.

Barnes argues the new policy is effective as “assaults inside court facilities have been reduced by 60 percent, and there have not been any major disturbances.

In short, inmates entrusted to our care are significantly less likely to assault or be assaulted.”

Sheriff officials appealed the ruling, and on Friday a state appeals court issued an order preventing it from going into effect until the appeals court hears evidence and makes its own decision. An appellate ruling isn’t expected until at least Dec. 16.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Diana Alvarez, whose son Anthony Aceves died in jail without explanation from sheriff officials, attends the Theo Lacy protest against shackling inmates.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Betty Valencia, a Orange resident and 2020 City Council candidate, recounts of a time when she “sang for the youth inside of the Theo Lacy facility with her guitar.” She explains, “This injustice cant be kept quiet any longer. We must unite and use our political voices like we all are here today”

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Laurie Dozal, 58, at the Theo Lacy facility on Nov. 24.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Donna Acevedo, 52, is a grieving mother who lost her 21 year old son, Joel, during a 2012 shooting involving Anaheim Police officers . She was one of the two mothers present at the protest whose children had been killed by Police.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

German Santos, 56, is a longtime political activist joins protesters outside the Theo Lacy Facility.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

(Left) Samuel Vance and (right) Melissa Nolane, 35, yell chants denouncing the shackling policies of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Daisy Ramirez, 29, a community leader from Transforming Justice OC and ACLU Jails Conditions and Policy Coordinator at ACLU, leads the Sunday protest in front of the Theo Lacy facility in Orange.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Students, allies, activists, and impacted residents of OC came to protest outside of Theo Facility on Nov. 24.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Shackling demonstration during the ACLU led protest located in front of Theo Lacy correctional Facility on Nov. 24.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

UCI law student, Pilar Escontrias, 33, spends her Sunday afternoon protesting against the recent OC shackle scandal. A scandal that she says, “needs to be exposed.”

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Diana Alvarez, whose son Anthony Aceves died in jail without explanation from sheriff officials, holds a sign toward a passing police car.