It may be hard to believe, but Colorado allows criminal charges to be brought against a 10-year-old child. However, this may change shortly if new legislation passes. This bill (HB23-1249 Reduce Justice-involvement For Young Children) is an updated version of a 2022 bill set aside in favor of further study. The new bill would increase the minimum to 13 years old.
The plan calls for crucial differences in handling young offenders. Instead of detention in juvenile corrections centers, the youngsters would go directly into therapy or community programs, especially ones that address anger management and substance abuse issues. The only exception would be for those charged with homicide.
Already part of the system
These so-called “collaborative management programs” already exist in 51 of the state’s 64 counties and work with child welfare and juvenile justice. This fresh approach reflects recent data that found that juveniles who go to detention centers are more likely to return to the correction system as juveniles or adults. Recidivism is commonplace in adult criminal justice systems nationwide and is something advocates would like to change. Between 2016 and 2021, 455 kids ages 10 to 12 were detained for days or months in the Division of Youth Services, and 11% were 10-year-olds.
A small but crucial number
These numbers are small compared to older juveniles and adults, but the impact of helping children makes these outlier moments rather than a hardened criminal’s determining moment. Many parents see their kids make mistakes and are there to pick them up. Changes to the juvenile system can be an extension of it.