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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Professor Berkheiser Works to Unchain Children

Congratulations to Professor Mary Berkheiser, whose work in the Juvenile Justice Clinic at Boyd School of Law has helped to end the routine practice of shackling juvenile defendants in Clark County.

While watching juvenile court proceedings about ten years ago, Professor Berkheiser noticed that teenagers and preteens would frequently be bound in leg irons, belly chains, and handcuffs. The practice of shackling juvenile defendants began, apparently, when the local courthouse was under construction. Marshals used shackles when moving juvenile defendants from one area to another to prevent them from running. Even after construction on the courthouse was completed, the policy of shackling juvenile defendants remained.

In response, Professor Berkheiser urged her third-year law students in the Juvenile Justice Clinic at Boyd School of Law to do someting about the shackling policy. Working under Professor Berkheiser's supervision, the students succeeded in persuading Judge William Voy, who presides over the Clark County Juvenile Court, to change the policy. Instead of routinely shackling all juvenile defendants, a new policy will allow for shackling only when a particular juvenile defendant is at risk of escape or violence. Clark County marshals have already removed leg irons from most juvenile defendants, and plans are in place to remove belly chains and handcuffs as soon as the courts are able to hire additional security.

To read more about Professor Berkheiser's efforts to end the shackling of juvenile defendants, please see Mary Berkheiser, Unchain the Children, Nevada Lawyer, June 2012, at 30; and Amy Kingsley, Why the Practice of Shackling Juvenile Defendants Is Coming to an End, Las Vegas City Life, August 8, 2012.

Congratulations, Mary!