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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska attorney has filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Public Safety and the court system in an attempt to end the practice of shackling defendants together in court.

Anchorage defense attorney Ember Tilton filed the lawsuit this week on behalf of state inmates Jason McAnulty and Toby Spece after their requests to be unshackled during summer court appearances were denied by judges, KTUU-TV reported .

The suit calls for an overhaul of court shackling procedures by ending the chaining of multiple defendants to each other at routine state court hearings. It also calls for courts to presume the defendant should not be shackled when they appear in pretrial hearings, and a judge should decide on a case-by-case basis if a defendant poses a safety risk.

Tilton said the state has created an unfair system where defendants who can afford bail are allowed to be unshackled in court and appear in pretrial proceedings in plain clothes. Those who can’t afford to post bail must sit in chains.

“It’s a test of our civility, how we treat not just prisoners and people accused of crimes, the mentally ill and handicapped,” Tilton said. “It’s for our own dignity and our own character as a society that we treat these people well.”

Department officials declined the news station’s request for comment.


Information from: KTUU-TV,