“We should hope to get to the point where we spend more on classrooms than cages…more on textbooks than prison blocks.”– Colorado State Representative Pete Lee.
According to the Colorado Springs Independent, legislation by Rep. Pete Lee aims to expand restorative justice alternatives in Colorado’s juvenile justice system. Currently, the District Attorney must suggest the alternative system. With the new reforms (which passed on the last day of the legislative session), the judge is required to inform both the victims and defendants of the option, and the judge can order it without it having to be suggested by the DA.
The current alternative justice system has been in place since 2008, and has seen promising results, with the crime rate steadily falling since the mid nineties. Already, several graffiti cleanup programs and other community service projects, as well as expansive school programs are helping at-risk youth. Juvenile justice reforms not only serve a very important moral goal, they can also save a significant amount of money ($270 per day in a correctional facility as compared to $7-$73 a day in diversion/supervision programs). The new legislation will shift available funds to further expand these programs in the hopes of preventing misguided juveniles from choosing a life of incarceration.