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Juvenile Detention - History and Current

In fiscal year 1974, the administration of juvenile detention was transferred by the Colorado Legislature from the State Judicial Department to the then “Department of Institutions”, and by extension, to the Division of Youth Services (DYS), now known as the Division of Youth Corrections. Prior to the State Judicial Department's assumption of juvenile detention administration in 1970, the counties held jurisdiction over day-to-day detention operations. As a result, the DYS assumed responsibility for the following juvenile detention centers: Denver Juvenile Hall, Zebulon Pike Juvenile Detention Center, El Paso County Juvenile Detention, Arapahoe County Youth Evaluation Center, Adams County Juvenile Detention Center, and the Jefferson County Juvenile Center. Incidentally, the Jefferson County Juvenile Center, which served the 1st, 5th, and 18th Judicial Districts, was returned to the county and demolished in order to make space for the Jefferson County Administration and Judicial complex. The DYS constructed a new and larger facility on the Mount View Campus in fiscal year 1986.


Two additional Juvenile Detention facilities were developed by the DYS in 1978; Pueblo Youth Services Center (located in Pueblo) and Grand Mesa Youth Services Center (located in Grand Junction). The Legislature changed the name of the Division of Youth Services to the Office of Youth Services in 1995. Then, with the transfer of the Office of Youth Services into the newly created Department of Human Services in 1996 the agency name was changed once again to the Division of Youth Corrections. The Division opened the Marvin W. Foote Youth Services Center in southeast Denver to serve the detention needs of the 18th Judicial District in 1997. The Platte Valley Youth Services Center in Greeley was also opened in 1997, serving both the detention needs (60 beds) and secure treatment needs (60 beds) for youth in the Division’s Northeast Region (which serves the 8th, 13th, 17th, 19th and 20th Judicial Districts). Youth requiring pretrial detention service in Adams County, the 17th Judicial District, will continue to be served by the Adams Youth Services Center in Brighton. The Southern Region (which serves the 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 15th and 16th Judicial Districts) gained additional detention and institutional treatment capacity with the opening of the Spring Creek Youth Services Center in February 1998. The facility accommodates 60 youth in pretrial detention and 40 committed youth in the treatment program.


Colorado’s juvenile detention system experienced significant change with the enactment of Senate Bill 03-283. This legislation placed a cap on the number of juvenile detention beds funded by the State at 479. There are several elements to the detention cap statutes (Sections 19-2-1201-1204, C.R.S.), all designed to assist local judicial districts to successfully manage their detention bed needs. Included in Senate Bill 03-283 is the development of catchment areas, provisions for judicial districts to “emergency release” youth and for borrowing beds from other districts within their designated catchment area. Detention beds are by statute, allocated by a formula.


The Division of Youth Corrections is responsible for State operated detention and for privately contracted staff-secure detention. Four State owned and operated facilities serve only detention youth; the Gilliam Youth Services Center in Denver, the Marvin W. Foote Youth Services Center in Englewood, the Adams Youth Services Center in Brighton and the Pueblo Youth Services Center in Pueblo. Four secure State operated facilities are multi-purpose, serving detention and committed youth. These four facilities include the Platte Valley, Grand Mesa, and Spring Creek facilities, as well as the Mount View Youth Services Center in Denver.


Senate Bill 91-94 was enacted in 1991 by the Legislature to provide community based detention services in the face of rising detention populations and projections for substantial future increases. A critical philosophical foundation of the legislation is the belief that on any given day, youth are housed in a secure detention facility that could be safely supervised in the community given the appropriate level of services. The bill was designed to create options for community supervision of youthful offenders while they await court hearings and/or the disposition of their cases. Detention screening and assessment were added to statute in the ensuing years, providing a mechanism for Districts to ensure appropriate detention referrals and management of their allocated beds. Senate Bill 94 programs operate in all 22 of the State’s judicial districts. They provide screening, assessment, case management, detention bed management (including management of the bed cap), community supervision services and evidence based treatment programming. Senate Bill 94 has been very successful in managing bed resources and in producing positive outcomes for communities. These outcomes include very low numbers of youth failing to appear for court and acquiring new charges while awaiting the disposition of their court cases. In general, Senate Bill 94 maintains a 90% or higher success rate in these two areas.