By Hannah Garcia, LAW WEEK COLORADO
With an ongoing nationwide discussion about the growing torrent of inmates in overcrowded prisons, Colorado is expanding a program meant to keep juveniles out.
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 1094 on March 20 after the legislation passed both chambers unanimously, sponsored by Rep. Pete Lee and Sens. John Cooke and Linda Newell. The bill had no opponents in committee hearings.
The new law makes “minor revisions” to juvenile restorative justice programs installed several years ago. The state has introduced the concept, which focuses on offenders attempting to make up for the harm done to victims, incrementally over the last few years. The programs are voluntary and take a cooperative approach with victims, offenders and community members. The goal is to encourage offenders to make amends through apologies, community service or financial reparations instead of serving time.
While victims are not pressured to participate, “we find, and the advocates for restorative justice find, that it is extremely helpful for offenders to face their victim eyeball to eyeball to hear from the victim the impact it has had,” Lee said during a Feb. 10 House Judiciary Committee. “And that’s the real power.”