(April 22) – A bill by Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, to end the use of solitary confinement on juveniles as punishment passed the House Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote late last night.
HB16-1328 does three basic things: places strict limitations on the use of solitary confinement on children, requires record keeping about the use of solitary and creates a working group of experts to evaluate the use of solitary and recommend best practices.
“These kids are the forgotten ones,” said Rep. Lee last night after hours of emotional testimony in support of the bill. “They are behind bars in locked rooms, away from view. Who speaks for these kids? Who stands up for these children? If not us, the Colorado Legislature, here and now, then who? And when?”
“Research shows that solitary confinement is damaging to our youth,” said Rep. McCann. “Solitary confinement can lead to depression, anxiety, and serious psychological harm. Colorado’s children should not be subjected to such isolation except for in rare emergencies.”
According to ACLU Colorado, nearly 60 percent of children in the care of the Department of Youth Corrections have mental illness and the majority of suicides in juvenile correctional facilities occur during solitary confinement.
HB16-1328 codifies that restraint and seclusion must never be used as punishment, as part of a treatment plan, as retaliation by staff, or for protection unless ordered by the court or in an emergency. Staff is required to check on the child every 15 minutes. The bill limits this practice to less than four hours in one day or eight hours in one week. DYC must provide training on adolescent development, the effects of using seclusion and restraint, and methods to handle youth in crisis and youth with mental illnesses.
The bill now proceeds to the House floor for second reading.