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Action over restraints on youths gets tied up

Attorneys hoping to face off over Jackson County's practice of putting ankle restraints on all youth facing criminal charges in juvenile court likely will have to wait until next month to step before a judge, say those involved in the case.

Medford defense attorney Christine Herbert, a member of the Jackson Juvenile Consortium, filed a motion last month asking that detained youths no longer be chained at the ankles for court appearances.

She argued that practice is unnecessary, violates youths' constitutional rights to be considered innocent until proven guilty and potentially undermines their rehabilitation.

A response filed on behalf of the county by senior assistant county counsel Ryan Kirchoff said the consortium lacks legal standing. to speak on behalf of all detained youth.

Without a specific case in question, the response daid, the court should avoid issuing a procedural advisory opinion. The court also should leave policy decisions to the juvenile department, his response said.

He objected to the term shackles as "an emotion-charged pejorative" and wrote that the restraints are a constitutional way to prevent violence or escape attempts when suspects appear before a judge.

Last week, Herbert replied to the county's opposition, pointing out that the consortium represents two-thirds of youthful criminal defendants in the county and could bring up the use of leg irons in every case. However, it instead filed a single motion as "the most economical judicial procedure."

Her reply pointed out that a judge has the power to determine how proceedings will be carried out in the courtroom and has the authority to decide on the use of restraints, adding that "shackles" is a term used and recognized in various court cases.

She reiterated her constitutional arguments that children deserve the same treatment and protection as adults, who generally aren't shackled in Oregon's courts. She also pointed out that state law calls for policies on restraint, force, isolation and in-custody searches to provide for "the least restrictive alternative consistent with the safety and security of the facility."

Herbert said that a judge will review all the case documents and set a hearing where oral arguments can be presented. Both Herbert and the county have requested a chance to speak before the court.

That hearing probably won't be set this month, but could come up in August, she said.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.