Fig­ur­ing out what works — and what doesn’t — in Colorado’s ju­ve­nile jus­tice sys­tem

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE - Gail Ryan,

Re: “Miracle in youth cor­rec­tions?” March 19 Vin­cent Car­roll column.

I was glad to see The Den­ver Post re­visit the is­sues raised by a pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cle about Colorado’s Di­vi­sion of Youth Cor­rec­tions, and I ap­plaud the points Vin­cent Car­roll made re­gard­ing the dearth of re­search on the is­sue. Too of­ten we get the ex­treme head­lines with­out thought­ful ex­plo­rations of is­sues.

We do have a lot of re­search about what helps hu­man be­ings do well, and what puts them at risk to not do well, which should be the ba­sis of de­ci­sions about re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, which is sup­posed to be the goal of the en­tire ju­ve­nile jus­tice sys­tem. The role of the ju­ve­nile courts was con­ceived “to act in the place of a kind and just par­ent” to pro­vide the guid­ance and dis­ci­pline kids need to re­turn to a healthy de­vel­op­men­tal tra­jec­tory.

It should be noted that ex­pect­ing/en­cour­ag­ing kids to be the in­stru­ment of con­trol over other kids does not demon­strate or teach dis­ci­pline, and sets a dan­ger­ous prece­dent for those kids in the real world. The im­prove­ment brought about by in­creased staff-to-youth ra­tios bears out com­mon sense. Adults are re­spon­si­ble for keep­ing kids safe, thus in­creas­ing staff is key to cre­at­ing safety in group set­tings where kids pose a risk to them­selves and/or oth­ers.

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