Bill to Reform Youth Corrections Heads to Hickenlooper’s Desk

By John Krieger

The Colorado Legislature gave final approval this week to HB 1329, a bill to bring systematic change to the Division of Youth Corrections (DYC). HB 1329 will increase transparency within DYC and create a 2-year pilot program focused on treatment and rehabilitation of kids without the use of punitive measures, such as solitary confinement, mechanical restraints, and pain compliance. The Division of Youth Corrections will also be renamed the Division of Youth Services and the mission will be changed to reflect the Division’s core rehabilitative function.

ACLU of Colorado Public Policy Director Denise Maes issued the following statement:

“The ACLU of Colorado commends the legislators from both sides of the aisle who came together to support broad, systematic reform of the Division of Youth Corrections – soon to known as the Division of Youth Services. HB 1329 is a major stride forward on the path to ending the culture of violence that has plagued the Division and endangered kids and staff in youth facilities, as chronicled in the Bound and Broken report by the Colorado Child Safety Coalition.

“We especially want to recognize the efforts of the bill’s prime sponsors, Representatives Pete Lee and Lois Landgraf and Senators Daniel Kagan and Don Coram, whose determination and leadership were critical to HB 1329’s passage. Representative Lee, in particular, has been a tireless advocate for protecting the rights and safety of our state’s most vulnerable youth, and his work in the legislature has been inspiring and impactful.

“ACLU members and activists responded to this legislation like none other in our organization’s history. Citizen lobbyists traveled from all over the state in March to speak directly to their legislators, and ACLU activists sent more than 15,000 emails in the final weeks of the session urging support for HB 1329.

“We hope and expect that Governor Hickenlooper will sign HB 1329 without delay. Then begins the important work of implementing these reforms in a way that is consistent with the Legislature’s vision that youth corrections becomes a safe, humane environment that equips young people to deal with trauma and develop the behavioral changes needed to successfully return and contribute to our communities.”

Read the Colorado Safety Coalition’s ‘Bound and Broken’ Report here.

The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.

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