Senate Panel OKs Youth Justice Programs

Two plans designed to help juveniles caught in the justice system passed through a Senate committee today, with one focusing on mental health and the other targeting restorative programs.

Both measures have gone through the House and both were approved almost unanimously.One bill would require court officials and guardians to bring up an issue of “emotional disturbance” during juvenile legal proceedings, if there is reason to believe that one exists. It would also allow a court to conduct assessments and order treatment if necessary.

The bill is being carried by Sen. Stephanie Takis, D-Aurora, and is the product of  a select oversight committee to handle juvenile treatment.

During the hearing, Don Quick with the District Attorney’s Council, raised concerns over the use of the words “emotional disturbance,” which he said could describe any teenager. But despite reservations, Quick said the council was working with Sen. Takis to amend the measure during its second reading in the Senate .

The only member to vote against the proposal was Sen. Scott Renfroe, a Republican from Greeley.

The other proposal would encourage local planning committees to consider restorative programs for juveniles. Such programs involve mediation between an offender and victim in an effort to help the offender recognize the harm they have committed.

The sponsor, Sen. John Morse of Colorado Springs, said that mediations could help prevent crime and reduce stress in overflowing prisons. He also acknowledged that it was a possibility that such treatment may be extended to adults in the future. It was approved by all committee members.

The measure also creates a restorative justice council to help the development of such programs.

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About the Author

Erin Rosa

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature.

Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state.

Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters.

She can be reached at erosa@coloradoindependent.com.

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