Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes lashed out Wednesday at an Orange County Superior Court judge’s ruling barring waist restraints for inmates in the county’s jails.
Orange County Public Defenders filed suit to stop the use of waist restraints, arguing they make it difficult for inmates to do ordinary activities like relieving themselves or eating.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Roberts on Monday issued a ruling that allows the use of shackles while transporting inmates from a jail to a courthouse, but issued restrictions for the use of the restraints while they await legal proceedings.
Roberts ruled that shackling defendants in holding cells at the courthouse could affect their ability to defend themselves.
“The time spent restrained in courthouse holding cells certainly would adversely affect the ability of any person to focus and communicate well with their counsel and the court,” Roberts said in the ruling.
One defendant said she decided to plead guilty in her case so she could resolve it quickly and not have to wait in shackles at the courthouse all day, according to the judge’s ruling. Another inmate said she had difficulty managing her menstruation while chained up during court proceedings.
“It should be the exception that a defendant is held in the holding cell in shackles,” Roberts wrote in the ruling.
The ban on shackling is not absolute, Roberts said.
“This ruling in no way seeks to limit an individualized assessment of security concerns by any judicial officer in a particular case,” she said.
Barnes criticized Roberts for her past membership of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Interestingly, Judge Roberts had initially recused herself from the issue citing her family’s current association with and her past membership of the ACLU, a political advocacy group that routinely advocates against law enforcement, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and the concept of incarceration in general,” Barnes said in a statement.
“Days later, in contrast to her own self-declared conflict, Judge Roberts made a decision for the entire Orange County Superior Court system that was very much consistent with the ACLU’s anti-incarceration agenda.”
Barnes said the attorneys “have grossly distorted the restrictiveness of the waist restraints implying they prevent inmates from engaging in basic human needs, such as blowing one’s nose.”
“The restraints, however, do accomplish the goal of limiting the type of movement that would be necessary to use violence against another inmate or staff,” Barnes said. “Since the implementation of the restraint policy, assaults inside court facilities have been reduced by 60%, and there have not been any major disturbances.
“In short, inmates entrusted to our care are significantly less likely to assault or be assaulted.”
Barnes said he is appealing the judge’s order.