By Charlie De Mar

CHICAGO (CBS) — The director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services sent out a memo late Monday categorically banning the use of handcuffs or shackles when transporting young people.

The new rules come after multiple CBS 2 reports about Chicago foster kids who were shackled while in DCFS custody. CBS 2 was the first to expose the practice.

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As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported Monday night, the Cook County Public Guardian said the change is a step in the right direction. But he also said it is a sad sign that policies need to be made on shackling children.

A memo issued by Acting DCFS Director Marc D. Smith states in boldface italics: “Under no circumstances shall any agent or employee of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (‘DCFS’), any agent or employee of any provider, or any transportation company designated to transport youth in DCFS care use handcuffs and/or shackles for transporting any youth in DCFS care. This prohibition applies to all forms of such transportation, including Secured Transport.”

“Secured transport” involves the use of a vehicle in which all the doors are locked and passengers cannot open them. It will be allowed under limited conditions, the DCFS said.

The DCFS said secured transport must be mandated under court order, ordered by a psychiatrist based on a youth’s mental health needs, or ordered by the DCFS director under “exigent circumstances.”

Secured transport has been used 131 times since 2017.

Soft restraints can also be used in even more limited circumstances. They are only allowed under court order or by order of a psychiatrist, the memo said.

Specific procedures and paperwork are required to ask for secured transport. An extensive form must be sent up the DCFS chain of command before a secure transport is approved.

Last week, CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported that new documents show the number of foster care kids in shackles is actually 10 times what we were told by the state.

Jawan Cross was shackled, on orders from DCFS, on a transport from a Chicago youth center to the suburbs.

“Some people in a van – a regular van – they shackled me, locked my feet down and locked my hands down,” Cross said.

Cross was one of at least 28 cases in which restraints were used in just the last two and a half years. DCFS later admitted that should never have happened.

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“They told me they had to put me and handcuffs. I was wondering why,” Cross said.

We obtained DCFS transport records that show over the last 2.5 years 28 cases where restraints—leg shackles and handcuffs—were used on foster kids.

In November 2017, the documents show a 17-year-old girl was transported in those restraints from Chicago to Detroit, a 4.5-hour trip.

Chicago foster kids have also shackled for parts of trips to three cities in Tennessee – Memphis, Jackson and Waverly – and Fordyce, Arkansas.

“At some point, and I don’t know what that point is, but this is torture,” said Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert.

A state contract uncovered by CBS 2’s Tye revealed that transportation companies previously decided how to contain DCFS children during rides, not state experts.

But these new rules drafted Monday aim to change that.

“To delegate that to a bus company is illegal, unconstitutional, it’s outrageous, and it’s stupid,” Golbert said last week.

DCFS apologized for the shackling, but after our report aired, Illinois State Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) drafted a new state bill.

“We have to have a judge oversee this and making the decision before one of these adolescent kids can be shackled,” Scherer said.

Golbert said while these new measures are good on paper, he fears that shackles could still be used out of convenience rather than going through the new process.

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A judge has ruled any restraints must come on orders from a court or a psychologist and two senior DCFS officials.

Charlie De Mar