Colorado Launches Comprehensive Review of Juvenile Justice System

Office of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper

Gov. John Hickenlooper today announced a comprehensive review of Colorado’s juvenile justice system. The Governor was joined by Sen. Bob Gardner (R), Rep. Pete Lee (D), and Justice Brian Boatright of the Colorado Supreme Court in the effort to ensure that youth who find themselves in corrections at an early age can have a second chance to build successful futures. The task force furthers our efforts to keep youth out of the criminal justice system, bolster Two-Generation approaches, and get the best outcomes for Colorado youth.

“Kids don’t belong in prison. We know from the data that when children are incarcerated they usually become repeat offenders again and again,” said Governor John Hickenlooper. “This data-driven review will help us provide youths the best chance to successfully transition to a crime-free, productive adulthood.”

Partnering with the The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, the Improving Outcomes for Youth Statewide Task Force (IOYouth), includes lawmakers, judges, state and local juvenile justice leaders, and other stakeholders. Gov. Hickenlooper has designated Sen. Gardner and Rep. Lee as co-chairs.

“Strengthening public safety and improving the lives of our most vulnerable youth and their families are issues that all Coloradans can get behind,” said Rep. Lee.

Among the challenges faced by Colorado’s juvenile justice system are stubbornly high recidivism rates, which were between 49 and 55 percent over the three-year period from 2013 to 2015. And although juvenile arrest and incarceration rates have fallen, the Colorado Department of Youth Services spent $125 million in FY2017–2018—a $6.6 million increase from the year before.

“This initiative will help us take a closer look at the system with the goal of improving the use of supervision and services, increasing collaboration across state and local agencies, and strengthening our data collection and ability to hold agencies accountable for results,” said Sen. Gardner.”

The CSG Justice Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, will conduct the analysis of Colorado’s juvenile justice system, including data analysis as well as focus groups and interviews with local agency officials, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, law enforcement, probation staff, community-based providers, and youth and families impacted by the system across the state.

“Colorado is in a unique position to learn how to improve our system and to craft meaningful system improvements grounded in research and dedicated to making the state safer and its children more successful,” said Justice Boatright.

Over the next six months, the CSG Justice Center will present its key findings to the inter-branch task force, whose members will ultimately be responsible for coming to consensus on legislative changes for improving the system. These changes will be introduced in Colorado’s 2019 legislative session. IOYouth is a project of the National Reentry Resource Center supported by the U.S. Department of Justice.