Home News Center Arizona Youth Being Tried as Adults Can Now be Held in Juvenile Facilities

Arizona Youth Being Tried as Adults Can Now be Held in Juvenile Facilities

September 21, 2016
Benjamin Chambers


NOTE: An earlier version of this story said that shackling was "banned" -- this is incorrect. It was significantly restricted. NJJN regrets the error. 

This year, the Children’s Action Alliance of Arizona (CAA), a member of NJJN, helped pass legislation that allows youth being prosecuted as adults to be held in juvenile detention centers instead of adult jails, and played a role in restricting indiscriminate shackling of youth in Arizona juvenile court rooms.

Way back in 2010, in its report, “Improving Public Safety by Keeping Youth Out of the Adult Criminal Justice System,” CAA specifically recommended that youth prosecuted as adults should be held in juvenile facilities instead of adult jails or prisons. Fast-forward to 2015, and the same idea was put forward by the County Supervisors’ Association of Arizona. Rural counties especially objected to the practice because they were having to place teens in adult jails without any programming for young people, while maintaining (at great expense) sight-and-sound separation from incarcerated adults. Senators Gail Griffin and Sylvia Allen introduced S.B. 1308 in the 2016 session, which would have given judges total discretion to house youth being tried as adults in juvenile detention centers. After much negotiation, the final bill narrowed the original scope by setting criteria for which youth could be eligible, but passed the House and Senate unanimously before being signed by the governor.

“SB 1308 is more restrictive than what we wanted,” says Beth Rosenberg, Director of Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice at CAA, “but it’s a terrific move forward.”

Arizona juvenile justice advocates also scored a victory by limiting shackling. Normal practice had been to shackle all youth being transported to and from court, and most youth in the court room. A few counties were trying to limit the practice, but not across board, and usually the final decision was at the discretion of the juvenile probation department.

The National Juvenile Defender Center’s Campaign Against Indiscriminate Shackling helped lay the groundwork as advocates pushed the idea with judges and probation staff. In the fall 2015, the Maricopa County Office of the Public Advocate proposed banning indiscriminate shackling (both in court and when youth were being transported) through an amendment to the Arizona Supreme Court’s Rules of Juvenile Court Procedure. The proposed rule said that judges – not probation officers -- should be the ones to decide when youth were shackled, and that they should only do so in extraordinary circumstances.

Commenting on the proposed rule change, a court administrator speaking on behalf of the state’s juvenile court judges and probation offices agreed that some factors should be weighed before shackles were used, but that the discretion to shackle youth should remain with probation, and not with the bench. CAA’s detailed and lucid rebuttal rejected the probation officers’ arguments and was ultimately successful in persuading the state Supreme Court: on September 2, a new rule restricting the use of courtroom shackles for youth except in extraordinary circumstances was promulgated – giving judges discretion to make the final call.

“We’re really pleased,” said Ms. Rosenberg. “I think what they adopted for the court room is great and certainly more developmentally appropriate for youth.”

Photo credit: Daniel X. O'Neil. Model for representatoin purposes only.  

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