A correct trajectory for youth corrections

News from the Colorado Division of Youth Corrections last week was both welcome and impressive: There has been a 44 percent reduction over the past seven years in the number of youngsters sentenced to confinement in youth corrections facilities.

Cutting almost in half the number of youths who are sent behind bars is really an exceptional achievement, one that will have important consequences for both the state budget and the lives of many Colorado youngsters.

In terms of the budget, the director of the Youth Corrections Division said the state will remove 189 beds from seven state-run and community-based facilities around the state. No word yet on whether that will include the Youth Corrections facility in Grand Junction, but that is likely.

State officials hope to use the money saved — some $8 million — to go to boost child welfare services, where there have been numerous problems and system failures reported recently.

Perhaps more important than the financial issue is what the decrease in Youth Corrections numbers means for at-risk young people in Colorado. Officials with the division say the decrease is due primarily to two factors.

First, more at-risk youngsters are getting assistance through programs that work with them before they get involved with the criminal justice system. Other programs work with youth who have been incarcerated to prevent them from committing more crimes.

Coloradans should all be thankful for this achievement, which could only be accomplished by individuals and agencies through the criminal justice system.


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