Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Colorado Doesn’t Know How Many Kids Are In Its Adult Jails

with 2 comments

Colorado has what’s known as a “direct-file” law: prosecutors can decide single-handedly to charge juvenile defendants as young as 14 years old as adults, without having to go through a judge. And once a juvenile is charged as an adult, under Colorado law, he (or she) is removed to adult jail, where he can’t go to school, and is unlikely to receive any mental health treatment he might need. Out of concern for their safety, juveniles in Colorado’s adult facilities are often kept in solitary confinement — which is not really a solution, given that solitary confinement has been proven to cause all kinds of mental health problems. So, how many juveniles are being treated this way? Well, no one really knows. The Colorado Independent reports:

People involved in the system admit to not knowing how many young people charged as adults are presently being held by the state and in which prisons. Colorado sheriffs frankly admitted to the Colorado Independent that their adult facilities are inappropriate for managing juvenile detention. …

Jeanne Smith, director of the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, said a large part of the problem is a lack of data. She told the Independent that the state doesn’t conduct the most rudimentary research on minors being held in adult prisons …

“It takes money to do evaluation and research and right now Colorado doesn’t have it,” Smith said. “I don’t know that there is anybody in the state who has done a study of the county jails and what they are doing,” Smith said. “The state judiciary has the numbers on how many [juveniles] get filed on but they don’t know how many are being held in juvenile facilities or in county jails.”

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Written by sara

March 11, 2010 at 7:35 am

2 Responses

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  1. I can see how it would be difficult to get an accurate count of how many juveniles charged as adults are held in adult jails. I have problems with keeping track of them in my own county.

    In my state if they are under 18 they have to be held out-of-sight-and -sound of adult inmates. In some states if they are charged as adults that rule can be waived. Normally the sheriff decides where they are held but if a judge orders they be held in a juvenile detention facility the sheriff will comply.

    John Neff

    March 11, 2010 at 8:07 pm

  2. This is insane. Colorado is creating its own problems. Not only does this violate the basic tenets of law, representing a denial of due process as well as cruel punishment, but there are compelling psychological and sociological arguments against this type of treatment. Books, not bars!

    C. Eliyah

    March 11, 2010 at 10:15 pm


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