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Wednesday 22nd of January 2020

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Colorado youth correctional facilities’ method of restraining juveniles developed without oversight, report finds

Thursday 22nd of August 2019 | North America, United States
The Denver Post
News

State’s juvenile detention system lacks transparency and oversight, report finds

Youth correctional facilities in Colorado are still using a form of full-body restraint on juveniles a year after the state eliminated a similar practice that has been deemed torture by other states.

The revelation of this new method is highlighted in a report released Wednesday by Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman, which said the state’s revised restraint tactics provide an extreme example of a juvenile detention system that is “opaque, inconsistent and inaccessible” with its policies.

Stephanie Villafuerte, the state’s child protection ombudsman, called for the department to increase transparency, public participation and state oversight.

The system is working in reverse, Villafuerte told The Denver Post: Policies are enacted without outside input, and then the public finds out about them once they’re in effect.

“Kids should not be getting psychologically or physically harmed until we realize policies are flawed,” she said. “We ought to be having these conversations up front.”

In its response to the ombudsman’s findings, the Colorado Department of Human Services, which operates the Department of Youth Services, agreed to be more transparent in its decision-making going forward.

But Villafuerte said the state hasn’t gone far enough, questioning why the department responsible for rehabilitating youths doesn’t fall under the state rule-making process.

Wednesday’s report comes as Colorado’s juvenile detention facilities have faced scrutiny for their practices in recent years from lawmakers and child welfare advocates.

A February 2017 report, titled “Bound and Broken,” found that the state’s juvenile correctional facilities were a “chaotic and violent environment” where youths and staff members were frequently injured in fights and assaults.

The report found that youths were placed in solitary confinement more than 2,200 times in a year-long span, while the staff frequently used physical restraints such as the Wrap, which causes numbing, pain and psychological damage.

Few other states use the technique. In 2014, the Arkansas juvenile ombudsman investigated the use of the Wrap in that state, calling the device “torture.” Two weeks later, Arkansas banned the device.

Staff and the youths in the facilities were like “rival gangs,” the report said. Violence was the norm.

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  • International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO). Belgian Public Utility Foundation

    All rights reserved

  • Head Office: Rue Mercelis, nº 50. 1050. Brussels. Belgium

    Phone: 00 32 262 988 90. Fax: 00 32 262 988 99. oijj@oijj.org

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