DENVER, CO - The House today advanced bipartisan legislation on a preliminary vote to increase the prosecution age of children to improve public safety and prevent future crimes and victims.
“I’ve spent my professional career working closely with kids and their families to help them navigate the traumatic experiences that often lead to contact with our criminal justice system,” said Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver. “I’ve seen unstable living environments, abuse, mental health struggles, poverty, and many other factors that impact childhood development. Research and data show that the strategies in this bill prevent crime and keep our children safe. If we want to improve public safety, we need to set kids up for success by connecting them to services that address their underlying needs to prevent future crimes from occurring.”
“The decade I served as a law enforcement officer taught me that too many people who end up in a cycle of incarceration are first arrested at a very young age,” said Rep. Ryan Armagost, R-Berthoud.” “We must start passing policy that prevents this cycle, and the victimization that stems from it, in the first place. There are hundreds of statutes on the books to charge someone after they commit a crime but not enough to protect our loved ones from being victimized in the first place. This bill makes our communities safer by getting young kids the evidence-based interventions they need that have been proven to reduce crime.”
Current Colorado law permits kids as young as 10-years-old to be prosecuted for a crime and detained in the juvenile justice system, introducing them at a young age to what can become a long-term cycle of incarceration.
HB23-1249, also sponsored by Republican Representative Ryan Armagost, would prohibit kids from 10 to 12-years-old from being prosecuted or detained for crimes beginning in July 2024, with exceptions for the most serious crimes. Instead, these kids would be referred to local collaborative management programs to receive services like behavioral health treatment and other community-based programs to address the root causes that lead to criminal activity. This bill does not make any changes to victims services, and victims would still be notified of and able to provide input on the plan to rehabilitate the child. They may also be eligible to receive financial compensation.
Starting September 1, 2023, every Colorado county would be required to establish collaborative management programs to provide services to 10 to 12-year-olds instead of detaining them in the criminal justice system. These individualized programs must review all referrals, create a plan for the child and family, and refer the child to relevant services accordingly. Victims have the right to be informed and provide input to the plan. In developing services to support the victims, the Department of Human Services shall consult with the Department of Public Safety and representatives from community based organizations. Additionally, a juvenile referred for an action that would be considered felony sexual assault or unlawful sexual conduct if committed by an adult must receive a sex offender evaluation.