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.