Lawmakers seek more transparency on juvenile detention incidents

From  Colorado lawmakers want more information about what’s happening inside the state’s juvenile detention facilities after a skyrocketing increase in fights and attacks that first uncovered last year.

House Bill 15-1131 requires the Colorado Department of Human Services and other agencies to release, under state open records laws, “specified information related to incidents that occur in a facility operated by the Division of Youth Corrections, so long as all identifying information has been redacted.”

State Sen. Kent Lambert, a Colorado Springs Republican who is the Senate sponsor of the bill, said lawmakers and the Colorado Springs Gazette heard about increasing problems at the Spring Creek Youth Services Center this summer, but CDHS, which runs the facility, refused to provide information.

“We started asking questions (in June) and the first thing they said is, ‘We can’t tell’ and we said ‘What do you mean, we’re the legislative committee that has oversight over you,” he said.

So lawmakers on both side of the aisle decided to push a bill that clarifies that CDHS may withhold the identities of youth offenders but not what is happening in the facilities.

In a series of stories, uncovered the increase in attacks after CDHS changed a seclusion policy, showed that repeat offenders were responsible for many of the worst attacks but suffered few consequences and that employees were leaving because of the increase in violence.

For the stories, was able to get basic information like the monthly number of attacks and policy changes from CDHS under open records, but CDHS refused to provide specifics of the incidents, citing child protection statutes., however, was able to dig up much of that information from local police agencies and district attorneys’ offices.

The bill requires agencies to release the type and summary of the incidents, whether the incidents are increasing in frequency and severity, how many youths are involved, whether they’re repeat offenders and a summary of the department’s response to prevent the violence.

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