Texas Supreme Court Ends the Indiscriminate Shackling of Youth


Media Contact:
Laura Felix
Texas Appleseed
512.473.2800 ext. 106

Yearslong Advocacy from Texas Appleseed and Partners Materializes

AUSTIN, Texas — Due in part to Texas Appleseed's advocacy, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a rule ending the indiscriminate shackling of young people in juvenile hearings. Youth will only be shackled in hearings if the court finds they are a risk to themselves or others, or if they are a flight risk. This took effect on June 1, 2023. 

Until the issuance of this rule, children across Texas were routinely shackled at their wrists and ankles when appearing before a judge, even when charged with low-level offenses or having no previous criminal history. Legal experts and youth justice advocates agree that this practice can be traumatizing, developmentally harmful, and have a chilling effect on due process. It also runs counter to the presumption of innocence inherent to our justice system.

“This ruling by the Supreme Court of Texas advances the rehabilitative goals of the youth justice system by reducing the trauma youth experience and ensuring they are treated with dignity,” Brett Merfish, Texas Appleseed’s Director of Youth Justice said. “We thank the Supreme Court of Texas, Representative James White, Representative Gene Wu, the Children’s Commission, and all our partners who have spent their time advocating to end this practice.”

Texas Appleseed collaborated with Rep. White and Rep. Wu in 2019 when Rep. Wu filed House Bill 2737 asking the Supreme Court, in conjunction with the Children’s Commission, to provide guidance around the shackling of juveniles in courts and ensure uniformity throughout the state. In response, the Children’s Commission worked with stakeholders, including Texas Appleseed, to examine current shackling practices and concluded a rule was needed to ensure youth’s due process rights are applied consistently throughout the state.

“I am thrilled that the Texas Supreme Court amended juvenile court rules to prohibit the indiscriminate shackling of children during processing without the need to pass additional legislation,” Rep. Wu said. “I hope that this small change is the beginning of a new era where we work more collaboratively to ensure that children who are in need are afforded better opportunities to rehabilitate and get back on the right path.”

Judges have always been able to end indiscriminate shackling in their own courtrooms, but the practice has continued in many courtrooms across the state. The Texas Supreme Court’s rule will discontinue the process in every courtroom unless a court assessment deems restraints necessary.

Texas joins a growing list of at least 30 states that no longer shackle children indiscriminately in juvenile hearings.

About Texas Appleseed
As one of the most trusted resources for data-driven policy analysis and solutions, Texas Appleseed advocates at the state and local level for fair, just, and equitable laws. Our work has shaped hundreds of laws and positively affected millions of Texans by breaking down barriers through transformative policy solutions. Visit www.TexasAppleseed.org for more information.