State lawmakers, advocates drafting student bill of rights to help kids in the criminal justice system

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Posted at 10:19 PM, Dec 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-14 09:08:19-05

DENVER — After a child becomes involved in the criminal justice system, it can be difficult and confusing for them to get back on track in school.

Advocates with Generation Schools Network (GSN) say many justice-engaged children do not receive enough help to graduate high school. Lawmakers and advocates are coming together to change that through the Justice-Engaged Student Bill of Rights (JESBOR).

“Across the state, we know that more than 22,000 young people are justice-engaged through pre-trial, lock-up, diversion and other justice programs," said GSN Vice President Dr. Jose Silva in a news release. "That’s the equivalent of the population of the City of Golden and we don’t know what the outcomes are for these students because we don’t track it. We are asking the community to come together to help solve this challenge because solving it means another $110 million in tax revenue contributed to the Colorado economy over their lifetime."

The JESBOR is currently in the drafting process. State Representative Jennifer Bacon (D-Denver) and State Senator James Coleman (D-Denver) sat on a panel at 5280 High School on Wednesday to gather information to complete the draft.

The bill is intended to codify systems to ensure that justice-involved students can more easily transition back into traditional education after experiencing the criminal justice system. Silva said necessities such as transferring grades from detention centers to schools and re-enrolling after jail time can often fall through the cracks.

The bill also has provisions for mental health support and reintegration into the school environment. It also features a help hotline for families.

JJ Reed, student body president at AUL Denver, said his involvement in the criminal justice system inspired him to help GSN draft the bill.

"You can make a mistake, and change it," Reed said. "You can make a mistake and continue your life."

Bacon said the bill could have a long-term impact by helping students receive their high school diplomas.

"We know how hard it could be to live as an adult (without a high school degree). We know the difference is in how much you earn. We know the difference is maybe even committing another crime," said Bacon.

Lawmakers hope to introduce the bill during the 2024 legislative session.

CO lawmakers drafting bill of rights to help kids in the criminal justice system

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