Statement from Sheriff Don Barnes on Recent Court Ruling Concerning Court Security
On Monday Orange County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Roberts issued an order prohibiting the use of waist restraints for all inmates who are transported to Orange County courthouses and held in Sheriff operated holding cells. The order represents significant judicial overreach and a failure to take into account the safety of inmates, court staff and members of the public.
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. 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.
At issue is my new policy requiring inmates to wear waist restraints while being transported to court and while being held in court holding cells. The policy is an outgrowth of our new classification system. As background, all correctional facilities use a classification system to determine the housing placement of inmates with a primary focus on their safety.
Proper classification ensures inmates are housed appropriate to individual needs and placed in cells where they will be most secure. As part of my jail reorganization, OCSD implemented a new objective classification system that incorporates industry best practices. The system is designed to maximize the amount of time inmates can spend out of their cell in a dayroom with other inmates. Maximized out of cell time is more conducive to programming that enhances the opportunity for rehabilitation and reductions in recidivism. Due to the nuances and expanded liberty of the new system, inmates of different classifications are put together when transported to and held at court. When inmates of different classification level are mixed it is necessary to use waist restraints as a means of preventing assaults and other nefarious activities.
Although the change in classification is largely for the benefit of inmates, the Public Defender has made a political decision to challenge the waist restraint policy. In fighting the policy, these lawyers have grossly distorted the restrictiveness of the waist restraints implying they prevent inmates from engaging in basic human needs such as eating and using the bathroom. The facts prove otherwise. In-cell video footage shows inmates eating, using the bathroom and engaging in other 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. 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.
Unfortunately the order issued Monday relies on the public defender’s false narrative. My staff and I are appealing the court order. I am confident that a higher court will recognize past legal precedence, the safety benefits of the restraints, my statutory authority as Sheriff to provide for the care and custody of inmates, and the authority given to me through the Memorandum of Understanding between the Superior Court and the County of Orange regarding court security.