98 Faith Leaders Support Measures to Reduce Child and Youth Interaction with Criminal Justice System

April 20, 2022 

Dear Honorable Members of the Colorado State Legislature, 

Together Colorado is a nonpartisan, multi-racial, and multi-faith statewide organization working to place human dignity at the center of public life in Colorado. We are writing to express our support for HB22-1131 ‘Reduce Justice Involvement for Young Children’ and SB22-023 ‘Deceptive Tactics Juvenile Custodian Interrogation’.

No matter their color, background, or zip code, every child deserves to grow in a supportive environment that respects their humanity, upholds their dignity, and responds fairly to mistakes and missteps. 

Children bring joy and vibrancy into our congregations every week, and as faith leaders, we know that childhood is fragile. Children need love and support to grow into healthy adults. Applying consequences and interrogation tactics designed for adults to a child takes a severe emotional, intellectual and physical toll and can have lasting impacts such as separation from support systems (family, friends, teachers, community members, and programs); increased high school dropout rates; an increased probability of youth committing future crimes; and false confessions. Child-like behaviors such as disrupting the classroom, trespassing, or minor property damage are being criminalized, yet are usually symptoms of underlying problems. Juvenile delinquency is best dealt with in a supportive, therapeutic setting rather than punitive measures that have been proven to be more traumatic than effective. Once a child enters the criminal legal system, they should be treated with care, dignity, and truthfulness, and no child should confess to a crime they didn’t commit because of deceptive interrogation tactics. 

We must move our energy and money away from policing and arresting children and towards proven solutions that set our kids up for fulfilling lives and keep our communities safe and supported. Kids need treatment, not punishment; compassion, not confinement; and honesty, not deception. Colorado already has systems and services in place to support our young people. HB22-1131 creates a bridge to those services for children aged 10-12 and prohibits children from being prosecuted and detained. SB22-023 protects Colorado youth from statements given under deceptive interrogation tactics being used against them in court, leading to lifelong consequences and inaccurate sentences. 

As clergy and faith leaders in your communities, we call on you to support HB22-1131 and SB22-023 because we have a moral obligation to love, forgive, and protect our children. When children are adultified and criminalized, the system of policing harms our present and our future. It is our responsibility to nurture children with kindness and protect them from systems that can bring harm, trauma, worsened mental outcomes, and separation from support systems. Colorado needs to be a place where we treat kids with compassion and where all children can ask questions, make mistakes, and learn so they can live fulfilling lives as adults.

Signed by 98 Colorado Faith Leaders below. (See attached PDF):

22 Juvenile Faith Leader Support Letter

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