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Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform | CO

Colorado: 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 


  • Adjudication and Sentencing — Youth Who Are Wrongly Incarcerated May Receive Compensation: Colorado passed legislation to provide compensation for a person or an immediate family member of a person who was wrongly convicted of a felony or adjudicated delinquent, incarcerated, and exonerated. The bill establishes procedures for eligible people—including youth—or their family members to petition a district court for monetary compensation, tuition waivers at state institutions of higher education, compensation for child support payments, reasonable attorneys’ fees, and the amount of any fine, penalty, court cost, or restitution. H.B. 1230/Act No. 409, signed into law and effective June 5, 2013.
  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Pilot Program Allows Youth to Request Restorative Justice Programs: Colorado took steps to expand restorative justice programs by creating a pilot project for in four judicial districts. Prior to the passage of this bill, restorative justice programs were used only at the request of the victim. Now, people convicted of a crime, youth who are adjudicated delinquent, or district attorneys may initiate restorative justice programs in certain circumstances. Youth may request restorative justice programs prior to the filing of a petition or in delinquency court. The law also established a restorative justice coordinating council to collect information regarding current programs and practices and develop a uniform restorative justice satisfaction evaluation. The council surveyed 20 restorative justice programs and found that 88 percent of restorative justice participants are under 18 years of age and the average success rate of all participants is 90 percent. H.B. 1254/Act No. 341, signed into law May 28, 2013, effective August 7, 2013.
  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Colorado Reduces Juvenile Detention Bed Cap: Colorado passed legislation to reduce youth incarceration by reducing the juvenile detention bed cap from 422 to 382 beds. A local committee decides which youth to release when the bed cap for a juvenile detention facility is exceeded. The bed cap number is reviewed regularly by the Joint Budget Committee of the Legislature and was designed to limit the number of youth in detention. S.B. 177/Act No. 88, signed into law and effective March 29, 2013.
  • Confidentiality and Expungement — Colorado Protects Voting Rights of Incarcerated Youth Who Are Incarcerated: Colorado passed legislation to ensure that youth in custody of the Division of Youth Corrections who are eligible to vote will be able to register and cast a mail-in ballot. Administrators of facilities must facilitate registration, voting, and provide eligible youth with information of their voting rights. H.B. 1038/Act No. 28, signed into law and effective March 15, 2013.
  • Confidentiality and Expungement — Colorado Shortens Waiting Period for Expungement of Juvenile Records: Colorado reduced the waiting period for youth to be considered eligible for expungement of their records. A court—through its own motion or the motion of the juvenile probation or parole department—may now initiate expungement proceedings 30 days after a youth’s sentence is discharged. Prior to the new law, expungement could not be initiated until one year after completion of diversion programming, or until four years after completion of probation or commitment/parole. Courts must advise youth and their parents or guardians of the right to expungement at the time of adjudication. For certain serious offenses, expungement proceedings may not commence prior to five years from the date the sentence is discharged. H.B. 1082/Act No. 238, signed into law May 17, 2013; effective August 7, 2013.
  • Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) — Colorado Requires Gender and Racial Impact Note for Certain Legislation: The Colorado General Assembly passed a bill requiring a gender and racial impact note in all legislative measures proposed by the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice that create a new criminal offense, increase or decrease the classification of an existing criminal offense, or change an element of an existing criminal offense. S.B. 229/Act No. 272, signed into law May 25, 2013; effective July 1, 2013.
  • Juvenile Defense and Court Process — Interim Committee Issues Recommendations on Juvenile Defense Reform: Recognizing the collateral consequences associated with a juvenile adjudication, the important role defense counsel plays in juvenile court, the specialized skills and training needed to adequately represent youth, and the barriers in accessing counsel, the Colorado General Assembly created a legislative committee to study legal defense in juvenile justice proceedings. The committee was charged with studying current laws, policies, and practices; the impacts on minority, immigrant, and special needs children; and methods for improvement. A report submitted in December 2013 recommended passage of a bill that would require youth to be represented by counsel at detention hearings and have appointed counsel at the first court appearance. This bill would also specify when the court may accept a waiver of the right to counsel. The committee also recommended a resolution requesting the Chief Judge of the Colorado Supreme Court to issue a directive to allow judges to remain in a juvenile rotation to gain expertise in the area, convene a task force with the Judicial Branch to formulate best practices, and establish a committee to improve the juvenile justice system. H.J.R. 1019, enacted May 20, 2013.
  • Organizational and Large-Scale Change — Colorado Funds Capacity Resource Center to Support Evidence-Based Practices: Colorado established a capacity resource center to help youth- and adult-serving agencies develop and sustain effective implementation strategies for evidence-based practices. The goal of the center offers educational and skill-building resources as well as consultation. H.B. 1129/Act No. 197, signed into law May 11, 2013; effective August 7, 2013.
  • Organizational and Large-Scale Change — Colorado Protects Voting Rights of Incarcerated Youth Who Are Incarcerated: Colorado passed legislation to ensure that youth in custody of the Division of Youth Corrections who are eligible to vote will be able to register and cast a mail-in ballot. Administrators of facilities must facilitate registration, voting, and provide eligible youth with information of their voting rights. H.B. 1038/Act No. 28, signed into law and effective March 15, 2013.
  • School-to-Prison Pipeline — Colorado Limits Detention of Youth for Failure to Attend School: Colorado school districts must now monitor student attendance, identify students who are chronically absent or habitually truant, and implement best practices to improve student attendance. Schools must work collaboratively with community organizations to create a multidisciplinary plan to improve a student’s attendance and only initiate court proceedings if this plan is unsuccessful. If a student fails to comply with a court order to compel attendance, the law limits detention to no more than five days. Prior to the law’s enactment, a student could be detained for up to 45 days. The law also explicitly requires that school districts provide educational services to juvenile detention facilities that align with the compulsory school attendance requirements and state model content standards. H.B. 1021/Act No. 335, signed into law May 28, 2013; effective August 7, 2013.
  • Sex Offender Laws and Registries — Colorado Limits Placement of Youth on Adult Sex Offender Registry: Colorado changed its juvenile sex offender registration policies so that an individual will now be placed on either the adult or juvenile list depending on his or her age at the time of the incident, rather than the age at the time of adjudication. Prior law placed youth on the adult registry if they turned 18 before sentencing. The adult registry is more onerous and it takes longer to petition to be removed from it. S.B. 229/Act No. 272, signed into law May 25, 2013; effective July 1, 2013.
  • Youth in the Adult System — Colorado Retains Youthful Offender System to Help Limit Placement of Youth in Adult Prisons: Colorado reenacted a law making young adults eligible for the Youthful Offender System, which had been repealed in October 2012 due to a sunset provision. A “young adult offender” is a person who is at least 18 years of age but under 20 years of age at the time the crime is committed, and under 21 years of age at the time of sentencing. Such youth may be sentenced to the Youthful Offender System for convictions of certain felonies, rather than being sent to adult prison. The Youthful Offender System is a facility within the adult Department of Corrections (DOC) that includes a high school, vocational programming, and more services than are available in adult prison. The law also mandates that the DOC implement policies to comply with the Federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in order to provide better protections for youth under 18 in prison. S.B. 216/Act No. 171, signed into law and effective May 10, 2013.

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  • Adjudication and Sentencing — Colorado Softens Sentencing Options for Certain Youth: A new Colorado law extends the time period for deferral of adjudication of a youth for a sex offense from one year to two years, with the option to extend it to five years with good cause shown. The extension allows more time for youth to complete sex offender treatment. Additionally, deferred adjudications are eligible for expungement, despite a general state prohibition on expungement of records of sex offenses. The law also establishes a new “aggravated juvenile offender” provision, which allows consecutive sentencing in juvenile court of youth adjudicated for first and second degree murder. The law provides an alternative to prosecuting such youth in adult criminal court—youth who are classified as aggravated juvenile offenders remain in juvenile facilities until the age of 21. At age 20 ½, a hearing is held at which a judge decides how the sentence should be managed and whether the youth should be released or transferred to an adult facility, program, or parole. H.B. 1310/Act No. 268, signed into law June 7, 2012; effective June 12, 2012.
  • Confidentiality and Expungement — Youth Convicted of Prostitution-Related Offenses May Petition to Have Records Expunged: Colorado passed legislation that allows youth victims of human trafficking who were convicted of prostitution-related offenses in juvenile court to petition the court to have their records expunged, despite broader state law prohibiting expungement of sex offense records. A petition to expunge juvenile records for prostitution-related offenses may be filed at any time. H.B. 1151/Act No. 174, signed into law May 11, 2012; effective August 8, 2012.
  • School-to-Prison Pipeline — Colorado Eliminates Zero Tolerance and Mandatory Expulsions: An amendment to the Public School Finance Act eliminated zero tolerance policies and mandatory expulsions in Colorado. The amendment mandates that school discipline policies include interventions that reduce suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to the justice system and law enforcement, with a focus on prevention, intervention, restorative justice, peer mediation, or counseling. The law also establishes graduated sanctions for students who engage in disruptive behavior and mandates training for school resource officers. Schools and law enforcement agencies must collect data, including total school enrollment, average daily attendance rates, dropout rates, average class size, school bullying policies, and conduct and discipline code violations; the data is to be made available to the public upon request. H.B. 1345/Act No. 188, signed into law and effective May 19, 2012.
  • Youth in the Adult System — Colorado Limits Direct Filing of Juvenile Cases in Adult Court: Colorado amended its current law to limit the direct filing of juvenile cases in adult court. Prior law gave unilateral discretion to prosecutors to select certain youth for prosecution in adult criminal court, with no right to judicial review at any stage of the case. The new law raises the minimum age for direct file from fourteen to sixteen and limits the offenses eligible for direct file to only the most serious crimes (Class 1 and 2 felonies, sexual assault, and violent crimes) and repeat offenses. The new law also provides all youth whose cases are direct filed with the right to request a reverse transfer back to juvenile court. Lastly, the legislation reforms sentencing provisions to eliminate mandatory minimums for mid-level crimes of violence and require all youth convicted of misdemeanors to receive a juvenile disposition. H.B. 1271/Act No. 128, signed into law and effective April 20, 2012.
  • Youth in the Adult System — Colorado Requires Youth Charged as Adults to Be Held in Juvenile Facilities Prior to Trial: Colorado amended its statute concerning pretrial detention of youth prosecuted as adults. Existing law provided youth with the right to a hearing to determine whether the youth’s immediate welfare or the protection of the community required that the youth be detained. Now, if the court determines after such a hearing that a youth must be detained, Colorado law requires that all youth charged as adults to be held in juvenile detention facilities rather than adult jails or pretrial facilities. Youth may only be transferred to adult jail upon petition by the juvenile facility and a court hearing. H.B. 1139/Act No. 18, signed into law and effective on March 15, 2012.

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      • Facility Closures and Downsizing — Legislature Reduces Juvenile Detention Bed Cap by 57 Beds: The cap on the number of juvenile detention beds in Colorado was reduced by law from 479 to 422 beds. Bed caps on detention originated from S.B. 94 in 1991; the state periodically revises the caps as the utilization rate declines. When the cap is exceeded, the state must do an emergency release. The bed reduction also allows the legislature to reduce corresponding costs. S.B. 217/Ch. 150, signed into law and effective May 5, 2011.
      • School-to-Prison Pipeline — Legislature Limits Court Involvement in School Truancy Issues: Judicial proceedings to compel a youth to attend school in Colorado may only be used as a last resort for addressing the problem of truancy. To minimize the need for court action and the risk of detention, such proceedings are now allowed only after a school district has attempted other options for addressing truancy that employ best practices and research-based strategies.H.B. 1053/Ch. 58, signed into law and effective March 25, 2011.
      • School-to-Prison Pipeline — Juvenile Justice Task Force to Collect Data on School Discipline Strategies: The Juvenile Justice Task Force of the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice must study and collect data on the use of criminal justice sanctions and specific school discipline strategies in Colorado public schools. In November 2011, the task force submitted a report to the Legislative Council discussing zero tolerance policies, alternative disciplinary measures, victims’ rights, school resource officers, and data sharing. The report recommends that the legislature pass a law limiting mandatory expulsion, discouraging referrals to law enforcement, implementing graduated sanctions, and increasing training for school resource officers. S.B. 133/Ch. 210, signed into law and effective May 23, 2011.
      • Mental Health and Substance Abuse — General Assembly Requires Standards for Integrated System-of-Care Family Advocacy Programs: The Colorado General Assembly declared an explicit need for the development of rules and standards for family advocacy mental health juvenile justice programs, as well as technical assistance and coordination for such programs. The legislation makes permanent a demonstration program for system-of-care family advocates and family systems navigators for youth in the juvenile justice system with mental health issues. The “Family Advocacy Mental Health Juvenile Justice Program” must promulgate rules and standards in accordance with the legislation, with an emphasis on a collaborative, strengths-based approach. H.B. 1193/Ch. 71, signed into law and effective March 29, 2011.

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      • Youth in the Adult System — Law Limits Prosecutorial Discretion to File Adult Charges Against a Youth: A new law increases the minimum age at which certain youth (excepting those charged with murder and sex offenses) are eligible to be “direct filed”—or charged in adult criminal court by a prosecutor without a transfer hearing—from 14 to 16. The legislation also establishes factors that the prosecutor must consider in determining whether to direct file a youth, and requires a 14-day notice of intention to direct file. During this time, youth can provide information to the prosecutor regarding the enumerated factors. H.B. 1413/Ch. 264, signed into law May 25, 2010; effective August 11, 2010.
      • Conditions of Confinement — State Law Explicitly Prohibits Staff Sexual Contact with Youth in Juvenile Facilities: State law now protects both youth and adults in Colorado from sexual abuse and exploitation while confined. Prior law prohibited a correctional employee or volunteer in an adult criminal justice facility from engaging in sexual activity with an inmate; but youth in detention or commitment facilities were not explicitly protected under the law. H.B. 1277/Ch. 262, signed into law May 25, 2010; effective July 1, 2010.
      • Youth in the Adult System — School Districts Must Provide Educational Services for Youth in Adult Jails: A law now requires school districts in Colorado to provide educational services during the school year to youth being held, pending trial as adults, in jails located within the district. The law also requires school districts to comply with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act if a youth has a disability. S.B. 54/Ch. 265, signed into law and effective May 25, 2010.

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      • Youth in the Adult System — Legislature Increases Age of Eligibility for Sentencing in the Youthful Offender System: A new category of youth was established by the Colorado General Assembly to be eligible for sentencing in the Youthful Offender System (YOS) for certain offenses. YOS offers these youth—referred to as “young adult offenders”—alternatives to what would otherwise be a mandatory prison sentence. Young adult offenders are those who were at least 18 years old but under 20 years of age when the crime was committed and under 21 years old at the time of sentencing. Under the law, the prosecution or defense may request a pre-sentence report that includes a determination by the warden of the Youthful Offender System as to whether the young person is suitable for sentencing in YOS; the warden must consider the nature and circumstances of the crime, the circumstances and criminal history of the individual, and available bed space. YOS offers educational and vocational programming and a shorter period of community supervision than an adult prison and parole sentence. All YOS youth have a suspended adult prison sentence, which is two to four times longer than the two- to seven-year determinate YOS term. Successful completion of YOS discharges the adult prison sentence. H.B. 1122/Ch. 77, signed into law April 2, 2009; effective October 1, 2009.
      • Youth in the Adult System — Law Allows Youth Charged as Adults to Petition for Expungement of Records When Sentenced as Juveniles: Colorado law now permits a juvenile who is charged as an adult by the direct filing of charges in district court, but sentenced as a juvenile in the same matter, to petition the court for the expungement of his or her record. Previously, such youth were not eligible to have their records expunged. H.B. 1044/Ch. 19, signed into law March 18, 2009; effective September 1, 2009.
      • Youth in the Adult System — Certain Youth Tried as Adults May Be Held in Juvenile Facilities Rather than Adult Jail: Juveniles who are tried as adults may be placed in a juvenile facility prior to trial, rather than an adult jail, if the district attorney and defense counsel agree on the placement. Additionally, the district attorney may agree to change the place of confinement from adult jail to a juvenile facility at any stage of the proceedings. To determine the appropriate placement, the district attorney and defense counsel must consider several factors, including the nature, seriousness, and circumstances of the alleged offense; the youth’s history of prior criminal acts; and the youth’s age, physical maturity, mental state, and mental maturity. H.B.1321/Ch. 351, signed into law June 1, 2009.

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