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Lopsided percentages of young people charged as adults in Colorado courts appear to be ethic minority youth, an apparent bias rights activists suggest should be examined, especially given that Colorado is one of only 14 states in the country to embrace the hard-line "direct file" system, where district attorneys decide, without judicial review, whom to try as adults. According to analysts, the "direct file" system can be counterproductive and, in Colorado at least, is plagued by inadequate data collection and review. Indeed, even the most basic information, like the ethnic makeup of the juveniles being charged with adult crimes, is unreliable or simply not collected.
Draft legislation that would limit the power of Colorado district attorneys to charge 14- and 15-year-olds as adults was watered down this week by sponsor Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, who said that, although the bill enjoys the support of a majority of lawmakers, former D.A. now-Governor Bill Ritter, a strong proponent of D.A. discretion in these matters, said he would veto the original version of the bill.
DENVER-- Juveniles charged as adults in Colorado and awaiting trial as inmates in adult prisons find themselves part of a system that fails to educate them, provide them equal access to services like mental health care or even to ensure they are housed according to strict safety guidelines. 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.