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.