• One year ago, thousands of Coloradans marched in a historic display of resistance. At the ACLU of Colorado we carried that spirit throughout the year, fighting on many fronts for civil liberties. We won’t stop now.

  • By canceling DACA, Trump has put 800,000 young people at risk of losing their jobs and being deported from the only country they know as home. Passing the bipartisan Dream Act would protect them. We asked four Dreamers why the Dream Act is important to them and their future.

  • James Fisher spoke at the ACLU of Colorado Bill of Rights Dinner about how he and the ACLU are working together to stop the criminalization of poverty for the thousands of Coloradans who are trapped in debtors’ prisons.

  • Our membership has quadrupled in the last six months, making it possible to do more than ever to protect civil rights and civil liberties in Colorado. Thank you to all our new members, supporters, and donors, and the ones who’ve been with us for years.


Standing Up for Incarcerated Kids in Colorado

The ACLU of Colorado is committed to protecting children who are in the care of the Colorado Department of Youth Corrections (DYC) and to transforming the culture at DYC facilities to improve the safety of kids and staff.  

Read the new report from the Colorado Child Safety Coalition:

Bound and Broken: How DYC’s Culture of Violence is Hurting Colorado’s Kids and What to Do About It

Watch Bound and Broken: Exposing the culture of violence within the Colorado Division of Youth Corrections:

We are working with legislators, led by Rep Pete Lee, to change DYC’s punitive culture by bringing in the Missouri approach

Violence in Colorado’s Division of Youth Corrections (DYC) facilities has risen dramatically in recent years, and the common use of punitive measures, including pain compliance, knee strikes, solitary confinement, and a full-body straitjacket called the WRAP have created a culture of violence that is failing Colorado’s troubled youth.

In 2016 alone, DYC staff placed youth in solitary confinement 2240 times and used physical restraints more than 3600 times, with over sixty percent of those incidents resulting in the use of mechanical restraints, including handcuffs, leg irons, shackles and/or the WRAP.  Physical punishment methods, including pain compliance and targeted strikes with staff’s knees to sensitive parts of youths’ bodies, caused multiple injuries to young people, including bruises, scratches, rug burns, separated joints, and closed head injuries, according to the report.  The United States Department of Justice has determined pain compliance techniques violate children’s constitutional rights.

Colorado is one of the few juvenile justice systems in the country that uses the WRAP, a full body restraint device that is akin to a straitjacket. In 2016, DYC placed young people in the WRAP at least 253 times. The WRAP was outlawed in Arkansas after the Ombudsman called the device “torture” when used on youth.

Based on the model pioneered by the Missouri Division of Youth Services, the Missouri Approach offers staff better, non-punitive tools to respond to the needs of young people in their care.  Missouri data show that its youth corrections staff is 13 times less likely to be assaulted compared to other states and incarcerated youth in Missouri are 4.5 times less likely to be assaulted and 200 times less likely to be placed in solitary confinement.  As one Missouri youth said to DYC leadership and a member of the Colorado Child Safety Coalition during a recent Missouri Division of Youth Services tour: “The kids in Colorado deserve as good as the kids in Missouri.”

Ann E Casey report – Missouri model as the gold standard

Missouri Youth Services Institute – experts who can bring the model to CO.

in 2016, we worked with legislators to pass legislation limiting the use of solitary confinement on children.

Since 2014, the ACLU has worked with DYC, in coalition with Disability Law Colorado and the Colorado Juvenile Defender’s Center, to change DYC’s practices regarding locking children up in solitary (which the DYC calls “seclusion”). The new policy is one of the most progressive in the country.  We worked with Representative Pete Lee and former Rep Beth McAnn to draft and successfully passed a bill in the 2016 legislative session with broad bipartisan support that formalized these policies as state law. The bill was signed into law by the Governor on June 10th, 2016.  See fact sheet here

View All Cases

Related Cases

Solitary Confinement of Children in Residential Treatment Center – El Pueblo

View All Bills

Related Legislation

HB16-1328: Use Of Restraint And Seclusion On Individuals (Youth Solitary)
SB14-064: Use Of Isolated Confinement Mental Illness