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Most kids under 13 couldn’t get locked up under House Bill 1207

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Children not yet teenagers don’t belong behind bars, unless they’re a violent felon or mess with guns.

That’s what House Bill 1207 does. The legislation is up for its first hearing before the House Judiciary Committee this afternoon.

The bill would take locked-away detention off the table for non-violent offenders who are 10, 11 or 12. Children younger than that already are exempt.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, and supported by the Colorado Department of Human Services and the Division of Youth Corrections.

“This bill would help provide a better path forward for 10- to 12-year-olds arrested for nonviolent offenses,” Anders Jacobson, director of the Division of Youth Corrections, said in a statement. “Rather than being sent to secure, locked detention, these youth could receive needed services, funded through Senate Bill 94 — such as family services, mental health and substance abuse assessments, therapy and educational support — in their communities. We want to reduce the number of youth being unnecessarily detained in DYC.”

Over the past three years the Division of Youth Corrections has held 188 children who were 10 to 12 years old. Children stayed an average of 8.4 days, costing $232.68 a day, excluding overheard.

Legislative analysts estimate the change would save DYC about  $160,270 a year.

Incarcerating juveniles is a bad deal all the way around, according to research in 2013 by economists Anna Aizer from Brown University, and Joseph Doyle from MIT.

“We find that juvenile incarceration reduces the probability of high school completion and increases the probability of incarceration later in life,” they wrote. “While some of this relationship reflects omitted variables (as described above), even when we control for potential confounding factors using random assignment to judges, the relationships remain strong.

“In regressions with minimal controls, those incarcerated as a juvenile are 39 percentage points less likely to graduate from high school and are 41 percentage points more likely to have entered adult prison by age 25 compared with other public school students from the same neighborhood.”

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