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Colorado Passes Three Bills Supporting Youth Justice

August 31, 2017

NJJN member, the Colorado Juvenile Defender Center (CJDC), helped pass three bills this year, which fundamentally realign the youth justice system in the state. 

The principle reform addresses concerns raised in a report by the Colorado Child Safety Coalition which highlights “a culture of violence” within the Division of Youth Corrections. CJDC and the ACLU of Colorado worked to pass HB 1329, which promotes a therapeutic approach to youth justice featuring a notable pilot project that phases out the use of restraints. The bill intends to change the culture at the Division of Youth Corrections in the following ways:

  • The Division of Youth Correction’s name will be changed to the “Division of Youth Services” (DYS) and its mission will be defined as rehabilitative.

  • The bill creates a pilot program led by an independent contractor in which DYS will test out a fully therapeutic and rehabilitative model of providing care to kids. Within one year, the program will phase out use of solitary confinement and punitive restraints (on youth other than handcuffs) - including pain compliance and leg irons.

  • The bill increases transparency by requiring DYS to report publicly on use of force by staff members and creates local citizen “community boards” with the right to access DYS facilities, including speaking with staff and youth.

  • The bill provides for a comprehensive study by an independent consultant of DYS’s physical management practices to compare them with best practices and to make recommendations for bringing DYS’s policies and practices into line with best practices.

In addition, CJDC also supported legislation banning pretrial detention for 10-12 year-olds charged with nonviolent offenses. HB 1207’s passage shows the rising awareness by legislators that incarcerating youth has negative effects and extends a recent trend of states addressing the lower boundary of jurisdiction and detention.

Finally, CJDC lobbied alongside the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar to pass HB 1204 which makes it easier for Colorado’s youth to expunge their juvenile records. The legislation will require the court to automatically expunge cases where youth are found not guilty, the case is dismissed, or after the completion of a youth’s sentence for many petty offenses and misdemeanor charges. In addition the legislation requires that the court provide written notice of the right to expungement and the process of expungement to the child.

Elise Logemann, CJDC’s Supervising Attorney, says CJDC will continue to focus on overincarceration, juvenile life without parole and confinement conditions moving forward.

Extra resources:
CJDC’s website

HB 1204 Fact Sheet
Lower Age of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction and Youth Confinement
-- NJJN Toolkit

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