Date: 01/22/2009

BILL SUMMARY for HB09-1122


Votes: View--> Action Taken:
Refer House Bill 09-1122 to the Committee of the WPASS

01:18 PM -- House Bill 09-1122

Representative Roberts, prime sponsor, presented House Bill 09-1122 concerning increasing the age of persons eligible for sentencing to the Youthful Offender System. This bill expands the eligibility for sentencing to the Youthful Offender System (YOS) in the Department of Corrections (DOC) to include young adult offenders who are 18 or 19 at the time the offense is committed, but less than 21 years old at the time of sentencing. The bill excludes most sex offenders and individuals convicted of class 1 and most class 2 felonies (felony murder is the exception if it is pled down to a class 2 felony and meets certain sentencing guidelines) from eligibility for the YOS.

The bill requires the warden of the YOS facility, upon the request of the prosecution or the defense, to determine whether a young adult offender may be sentenced to the YOS for the presentence report. The warden must consider the nature and circumstances of the crime, the criminal history of the offender, the available bed space in the system, and any other appropriate considerations. This bill will take effect October 1, 2009, and it will sunset on October 1, 2012.

Background. The YOS is a sentencing option for certain juveniles who are charged as adults that exists between the traditional adult prison system and the Division of Youth Corrections, Department of Human Services. The YOS is an intensively structured program that provides services and treatment to juvenile offenders during incarceration, as well as the transition back to the community. The length of stay for an offender in the YOS is anywhere between two and seven years, depending on the severity of the crime committed, and the number of beds is capped by law and the physical limitations of the facility at 256. Certain conditions must be met before an individual may be sentenced to the YOS, including an age requirement and a restriction on certain types of crimes.

Representative Roberts responded to questions about the repeal of the law in 2012. The committee discussed the idea of requiring a report as to the success of the program rather than repealing it.

01:26 PM --
Steve Hager, Department of Corrections, appeared to answer questions. Mr. Hager responded to questions regarding warden involvement in sentences to YOS. Representative McCann asked about the interaction between younger offenders and the new, older offenders. Mr. Hager pointed out the successes of the YOS program and also the failure rate of the program. He talked about the capacity of YOS and the number of offenders currently in the facility. He responded to questions about the differences between regular DOC sentences and the YOS sentences. He talked about the means by which youthful offenders may be sentenced to the YOS.

01:37 PM --
Doug Wilson, State Public Defender, spoke in support of the bill. Mr. Wilson provided an explanation of the YOS and how it reduces recidivism. He discussed the importance of treating kids differently than adults. The bill was conceived in a subcommittee of the CCCJJ. He addressed the fact that the repealer on the bill was a compromise, the intent of which was to insure the continued effectiveness of the YOS. If the bill is disruptive to the program and decreases its effectiveness, the parties wanted some way to remove it. The committee discussed the potential fiscal impact of requiring a report on the provisions of the bill and removing the repealer.

01:44 PM --
Ted Tow, CDAC, spoke in support of the bill. Mr. Tow stressed that the everyone involved believes this will work and be very successful, but they all still want a way out if that becomes necessary. He discussed the consideration for sentencing an individual to the YOS.

01:48 PM --
Maureen Cain, Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, spoke in support of the bill. Ms. Cain raised the issue of adolescent brain development and pointed out that the YOS reprograms an juvenile's brain and puts them on the right track. She also mentioned the fiscal savings that can potentially be realized under this legislation.

01:56 PM --
Don Quick, 17th Judicial District Attorney, spoke in support of the bill. Mr. Quick also represented the Attorney General and the victim component of the CCCJJ. He stated that the bill is a good idea and it is the right thing to do. He talked about the discussions by the CCCJJ, in which it has been determined that the state needs to do a better job with assessing offenders on the front end of the DOC system. He also indicated that the group agreed that providing general education and vocational skills to offenders while they are in the system is beneficial to them and ultimately, to society. Finally, the state needs to improve re-entry services and supports. Mr. Quick stated that the YOS already provides all of those things in a very effective way. He discussed the recidivism rates of the YOS compared with those of the adult DOC system. The YOS rates are much lower, after both three years and five years. He pointed out that the offenders in YOS are generally violent offenders who used a weapon to commit the offense. There is a high proportion of gang members in the program and these individuals are not generally successful in regular prison programs. They go on to reoffend at very high rates.

02:02 PM --
Gary Maas, Colorado Department of Corrections, appeared to respond to questions from the committee about why the department has not taken an official position on the bill. Mr. Maas pointed out that the DOC does not generally take a position on bills that affect sentencing. The committee discussed the fact that the department would make the legislature aware of any future problems that might arise as a result of this bill.

02:08 PM

Representative Roberts wrapped up her presentation of the bill and commended all of the parties who brought the bill forward. She expressed her belief that the bill has a number of fail safes built into it in order to make it successful. She asked for the committee's favorable recommendation.
TIME: 02:10:06 PM
MOTION:Refer House Bill 09-1122 to the Committee of the Whole with a favorable recommendations. The motion passed on a vote of 10-0, with one excused.
Gardner B.