Right to be Free From Handcuffs and Shackles in Court

John F. et al. v. Carrión, 407117/07 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co.)

Nature of Claims: Plaintiff and a proposed class are children who are or will be in the custody of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services’ (OCFS) rehabilitative residential placements after a finding of juvenile delinquency. Plaintiffs have sued OCFS, challenging the agency’s procedure and practice of handcuffing and leg shackling every child in OCFS custody, every time OCFS brings those children to court in New York City. OCFS facilities are rehabilitative rather than punitive, and the law prohibits shackling unless an individual child has been assessed and found to pose an immediate danger to him- or herself or others. Plaintiffs challenge OCFS’ wholesale practice of shackling every young person whom the agency brings to court – whether the children are residing in “nonsecure” or “limited secure” facilities – and whether the children are merely coming to court to be released home or for some other reason.

Current Status: Plaintiffs and OCFS have settled plaintiffs’ motion for class certification, having entered into a consent Order providing that a judgment in this case will apply to all New York City children who are similarly situated to plaintiff John F.. Following discovery, plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment on March 24, 2009.

No. Persons Affected: OCFS has approximately one thousand children in its custody in rehabilitative facilities at any given time. Hundreds of children are from New York City, and are brought from OCFS facilities to courthouses.

Reported decisions: None published.