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New Nevada Law Will Limit Shackling Kids In Court

A new law passed after the recent legislative session will cut down on the routine shackling of children in Nevada courtrooms. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports.

Nevada has joined a growing national movement to rethink what's called presumptive shackling of kids in court. Dr. Shawn Marsh is with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, based in Reno. He's seen children as young as ten in handcuffs, shackles, and belly chains.

For a lot of kids who end up in the juvenile justice system, Marsh says they've endured adversity or trauma

"One of the things that we know to recover from that," Marsh explains, "is we have to encourage a sense of agency, a sense of control, a sense of self-determination because you've had something stolen from you and forced upon you."

Marsh says shackling actually delays that healing process:

"Literally, in the case of shackling, it does exactly the opposite. You are controlling that person. You are forcing something on them against their will and removing an opportunity for them to develop self-soothing skills, to maintain their own behavior, to practice behavior under stress."

Judges can still order that a child be restrained if a threat is posed, but under the new law, they'll make that call on a case-by-case basis.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.