On May 10, 2016, Colorado passed legislation that limits the use of solitary confinement in state-run juvenile facilities. House Bill 1328 limits the use of solitary in the case of an emergency, which is defined as a “serious, probable, imminent threat of bodily harm to self or others where there is the present ability to effect such bodily harm.” The approval of a qualified mental health professional and the approval of the Director of the Division of Youth Corrections must be secured for a youth to remain in seclusion beyond four hours. A court order is required to keep a youth in solitary confinement for eight hours. The bill requires the Colorado Division of Youth Corrections to document the use of solitary confinement and to create a youth seclusion working group including experts from the community. Click here and here to read more.
Despite the new law, the Colorado Child Safety Coalition released a report in March 2017 on punitive practices in the Colorado Division of Youth Corrections. Bound and Broken: How DYC’s Culture of Violence is Hurting Colorado’s Kids and What to Do About It includes found high rates of isolation and staff use pain-compliance techniques, straitjackets, and knee strikes on youth. The Report makes and policy recommendations, including a call for a pilot program in DYC based on the Missouri Approach, a highly-successful model used by several states that has resulted in safer facilities with far fewer assaults against both staff and youth, while maintaining low recidivism rates and high educational outcomes. The coalition also released a video featuring footage of some of these practices and the perspective of a young person. Read and watch the resources below to learn more: