- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - Colorado lawmakers have denied a request for a $1.2 million supplemental appropriation to add security staff at the state’s troubled youth corrections facilities after they found out the Colorado Department of Human Services had already hired 53 people without consulting the Legislature.

Lawmakers want more answers before they approve any more money, said Joint Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs. “We had a hard deadline to balance the budget, and DHS said they would have the data, and they didn’t,” Lambert said.

Committee members did not question the amount of money, but they did question how the agency got the money to hire people without specific approval.

Department of Human Services spokesman Dan Drayer said Youth Corrections hired 53 additional staff members in December because of increasing incidents of assaults and violence in 10 state-operated centers that house juvenile offenders.

The department used money that had been allocated to pay for placing juvenile offenders with contracted community-service providers, he said.

The department will work with committee members to come to a resolution, Drayer said. It is premature to talk about possible layoffs, he added.

Much of the attention has been focused on Spring Creek Youth Services Center in Colorado Springs, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported (https://tinyurl.com/nsrgyov).

Lawmakers said that for years they had heard reports of problems inside Spring Creek, which has 80 beds for detained and committed youths ages 10 to 21. In May, Colorado Springs School District 11 announced it would not renew its annual contract with Youth Corrections to provide educational services at the center, partly because of concerns over the safety of its teachers.

The number of assaults has risen every year, from 135 in 2011 to 176 in 2014, according to documents Youth Corrections provided to lawmakers in December. Staff-on-youth abuse allegations increased from 33 in 2011 to 81 in 2013.

For fiscal year 2015-16, Youth Corrections preliminarily is proposing an increase of $3.8 million from the state’s general fund to add 83 employees to begin implementing federally mandated staff-to-youth ratios and to address ongoing safety and security issues.

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Information from: The Gazette, https://www.gazette.com


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