As Impact of COVID-19 Spreads, Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman Signs Letter Calling for Efforts to Ensure the Safety and Well-being of Youth Living in Secured Facilities

On average, there are more than 620 youth in custody every day in Colorado. Consistently, there are 40 to 100 youth living in each of the Division of Youth Services’ secure facilities. Because these youth are housed together – living in close proximity of each other – they are at greater risk for infection. Many of these youth, while in the criminal justice system, are non-violent. Incarcerated youth do not have the ability to take proactive measures to keep themselves safe and are more likely to fall victim to COVID-19.

This week, the CPO signed a letter urging state officials to take immediate steps to address this and other concerns regarding the safety and well-being of these youths. A dozen Colorado agencies and organizations signed the letter and delivered it to officials that oversee juvenile court processes, juvenile probation and the incarceration of juveniles in detention facilities.

The letter recommends officials take the following actions:

  • Immediately and safely decrease the number of youth currently held in Division of Youth Services (DYS) facilities;
  • Immediately and safely stop sending youth to these facilities, or dramatically decrease the number of new youth being sent to DYS facilities;
  • Decrease in-person appearances in court and for probation appointments and activities;
  • Provide video visitation for families and professionals to ensure youth in custody have support and access to necessary legal and other services;
  • Create a written and public plan for how DYS will provide adequate care to youth in secure facilities in the event of an outbreak and increase medical resources, including staff and equipment, as necessary to execute this plan.

By following the actions above, Colorado officials can prioritize the safety and health of all people, including our most vulnerable youth.

Click here to read the full letter.