The Colorado Independent and members of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar recently attempted a study that would reveal the demographic details of the Colorado youths who are tried as adults for drug crimes, violent crimes and other various offenses.
Their investigation unveiled two important issues:
- Colorado’s minority children are tried as adults more often than white youths
- Colorado’s practices in juvenile law should be reconsidered
According to the study, in 2008, 4.3% of Colorado’s population was black and 27% of black youths were tried as adults in the legal system. Whites accounted for 71% of the Colorado population in 2008 and 56% of white youths were tried as adults. There are also notable differences between the number of Latinos in Colorado and the amount of Latino youths tried as adults.
The discrepancies between these numbers have sparked great concern among some in the community who worry that the system is practicing with bias and unfairly sentencing minority youths too harshly. If this is true, stricter sentencing affects the youths more than by just keeping them in jail. It means that minority youths are missing out on the education they need while serving their time and being left unprepared for a successful return to society outside of the correctional system.
Motivated by the suspicion of bias towards minority youths, the study’s researchers and their supporters are pushing for a reevaluation of Colorado’s juvenile justice system. Some argue that the bias might have been practiced, unnoticed, due to the state’s direct file system that excludes judicial review regarding youth cases. Perhaps opening up the decision about how to treat youths in the system to more than the distric attorneys would create a fairer, less damaging reality in terms of minorities landing in the correctional system.
The researchers’ studies are preliminary but have sparked enough concern to inspire further investigation. We will keep you posted on any updates to this study and whether Colorado considers making any changes to their juvenile justice system.