Colorado lawmakers question juvenile jail budget request after Watchdog.org story

By Arthur Kane | Watchdog.org

DENVER — Colorado Joint Budget Committee members were skeptical of a nearly $10 million request to increase staffing at juvenile detention facilities despite the Colorado Department of Human Services saying increased staff was a way to stem violence.

Watchdog.org on Monday broke the story of skyrocketing attacks on staff at CDHS run juvenile detention facilities, with a record 91 staff injuries at the hands of youth between July and August.

JBC chairman state Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, cited the Watchdog.org report by name in questioning the increasing staff injuries.

“Some of us have seen charts about injuries of youth that is now in the press,” he said. “It’s too high to be acceptable.”

But he said he didn’t believe that more staff funding would solve the violence issue.

MORE MONEY: State Sen. Kent Lambert doesn’t think more money will solve the violence in youth facilities.

“It’s hard to justify a funding increase where the (inmate) population has gone down,” he said.

JBC figures show the juvenile population committed for crimes was projected to be about 744 this fiscal year — about half the 2004-05 high of 1,454.

State Rep. Jenise May, D-Aurora, said CDHS should look at moving youth around “instead of here’s where I have my youth now and we want to staff up to that.”

Last week, CDHS said the increase in staff is needed to abide by the guidelines of 2003 federal rape prevention act, which requires one staff to for every eight inmates during daytime hours where the current staffing as high as one-to-14.

CDHS staff did not testify Monday.

State Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, also said he didn’t believe that more staff will solve the violence problem.

“I’m not convinced that headcount is the only indicator,” he said.

CDHS staff are scheduled to appear before the committee Dec. 15 to answer lawmakers’ questions about their request and violence at facilities.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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