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Some Lawmakers Push For Youth Corrections Makeover

DENVER (CBS4)- The State of Colorado is overhauling the youth correction system after reports of an increase in violence in the facilities.

Prison officials are working with state lawmakers to find solutions after reports that detail the use of full-body straight jackets and pain compliance techniques. Both of which will be phased out.

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But that isn't all: some lawmakers say the entire culture of Youth Corrections needs to change.

Over the past year, more than 3,600 children in Colorado's youth corrections facility were physically restrained, more than 2,200 were held in isolation and others were subjected to "pain compliance techniques."

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Rep. Pete Lee calls it a culture of violence and he plans to change it.

"We're trying to change it from a culture of violence and chaos to therapy and rehabilitation," said Lee, a Democrat representing Colorado Springs.

Lee is carrying a bill that would create a two-year pilot program run by an outside group that would be a model for system-wide transformation.

Rep. Pete Lee (D) Colorado Springs (credit: CBS)

"These kids are in an environment of violence and chaos and if you take a kid who has been traumatized and put him in that sort of environment, they can't help but be re-traumatized and more traumatized and I would suggest that they come out worse than when they went in," said Lee.

In recognition of the paradigm shift, Youth Corrections would be renamed "Youth Services." The bill also requires an outside audit of the division and oversight by community boards.

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"There have been audits," said Sen. Kent Lambert, a Republican representing Colorado Springs.

Lambert says the division, under new leadership, is already making changes suggested in the bill.

Sen. Kent Lambert
Sen. Kent Lambert (R) Colorado Springs (credit: CBS)

"I think it's prudent to let those changes we've already made, to bring us into compliance with previous audits to start taking effect," said Lambert.

"We only have one chance to change these kids. And we can either turn them around or we can allow them to deteriorate," said Lee.

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Lawmakers approved mor than 200 new positions at Youth Corrections over the past three years. The new director, Anders Jacobson, told CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd that is helping the most.

At one facility, he said assaults have dropped by more than 70 percent when the additional officers were added.

The bill passed the state House unanimously and goes before a Senate committee on Wednesday.

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