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Superior Court judge has ruled, Orange County jail inmates will no longer be shackled around the waist inside courthouses. The plan by Judge Kathleen Roberts could end a new policy by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to fit all prisoners going to Court with waist chains connected to handcuffs, a system that defense attorneys called “inhumane.”

Currently, undersheriff police, inmates were chained for 10 to 14 hours, waiting in holding cells for their court appearances or to be bused back to the jail. The defense attorney complained the belly handcuffs were only taken off in the courtroom. However, Roberts directed they now must be removed at the courthouse door.

“The order represents significant judicial overreach and a failure to take into account the safety of inmates, court staff and members of the public,” announced Sheriff Don Barnes, who indicated Tuesday he would appeal during the case. The Sheriff’s Department attorneys argue that the chains allow for more protection. Not only to the inmates but to the general public. As for the holding tanks, the attorneys claim that is the sheriff’s domain of rights.

Roberts replied in her position that the tanks were more than confinement facilities; however, they serve a gateway to justice for inmates. “Unfortunately, the order issued yesterday relies on the public defender’s false narrative. … I am confident that a higher court will recognize past judicial precedence, the safety benefits of the restraints, my statutory authority as sheriff to provide for the care and custody of inmates.”

Roberts has announced her delay in her order unit Nov. 22 to allow the Sheriff’s Department to seek an appeal.

Sara Ross, Deputy Public Defender, who commenced the battle against the abdomen chains, challenged the constitutionality of only using them on a blanket basis. Instead, they would use them case by case, which is the tradition of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Multiple completes labeled the Orange County Sheriff’s Department of treating inmates like “animals.”

“Judge Roberts’ ruling was very thoughtful,” Ross said. “She truly considered our clients’ constitutional rights and the impact shackling had on them.”

The case is still pending.


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