State Demographics

In 1996, Colorado's youth population under age 18 was approximately 997,900 (Casey Foundation 1998). In 1993, the State had an estimated 216,763 (25.2 percent) minority youth population under age 18 and an estimated 51,202 (8.4 percent) youth population between the ages of 5 and 17 who did not speak English in the home (Colorado Division of Criminal Justice 1994, p. 17).

Of the State's children, approximately 12 percent were living in families with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty level in 1995. Further, it is estimated that in 1995, approximately 5 percent of Colorado's children were living in extreme poverty (Casey Foundation 1998).

Colorado ranked 29th in the country in terms of teen birth rate for 1995. This same year, the birth rate in the State was approximately 33 births per 1,000 young women ages 10-17. This was up from 27 births per 1,000 young women in 1985 (Casey Foundation 1998).

Colorado's dropout rate for 1996-97 was 3.6 percent. The dropout rate for

1996-97 for females was 3.2 percent (5,197 students) as compared with 3.9 percent (6,770 students) for males. The graduation rate for 1997 for young women was 81.9 percent (17,492 students) as compared with 75.3 percent (16,739 students) for young men. This rate includes students graduating from public school and the State's 53 alternative and second chance high schools (Colorado Department of Education 1998).

Overview of the Juvenile Justice System

Colorado's juvenile justice system is decentralized, except for the operation of most of its detention centers and long-term commitment facilities (Colorado Division of Criminal Justice 1994, p. 1). Each of the 22 judicial districts has district and county courts funded by the State. With the exception of Denver, juvenile courts are a division of the district court, and probation services are provided in all 22 judicial districts in the State as part of the Judicial Department. Further, the State Division of Youth Corrections, part of the Department of Human Services, provides secure detention services to juveniles taken into temporary custody, and training schools for committed youth (Colorado Division of Criminal Justice 1994, pp. 3-4).

The Formula Grants Program for the State is housed in the Division of Criminal Justice.

Colorado is also home to the Youthful Offender System (YOS), operated by the Department of Corrections. Opened in February 1994, YOS is intended for serious juvenile offenders (those youth that have committed class 4, 5, and 6 felonies) who have been directly filed in the district courts as adults. Juveniles are sentenced to YOS for a determinate period of not less than one year or more than five years followed by a mandatory one-year period of parole supervision. Successful completion of the YOS sentence fulfills the requirements of the Department of Correction's sentence. However, youth returned to the district court for revocation face their original adult sentences (Colorado Division of Criminal Justice 1994, p. 4-5).

Finally, in 1991, the Colorado legislature passed Senate Bill 1994 (SB 94) to address the issue of overcrowding of detention and institutional facilities in the State's juvenile justice system. This program authorized the funding of community-based alternatives to incarceration programs for juvenile offenders. Judicial districts participating must have separate SB 94 committees and must submit annual plans outlining funding goals to the Division of Youth Corrections (Colorado Division of Criminal Justice 1994, p. 14). Since 1995, these plans have been specifically required to address the needs of adolescent female offenders.

Offense Patterns and Processing of Juvenile Female Offenders

The following statistics give an overview of the information available on female offending and processing patterns in Colorado:

  • In 1992, approximately 202 young women were arrested for violent offenses such as murder, rape, and aggravated assault. Three young women were arrested for murder in 1992, down from five in 1991 (Colorado Division of Criminal Justice 1994, Appendix E).

  • In 1990, approximately 8.1 percent of young women surveyed reported carrying a weapon to school in the previous 30 days. This is in comparison with 19.6 percent of young men (Colorado Division of Criminal Justice 1994, Appendix E).

  • In 1997, young women represented 20 percent (2,927) of youth admitted to detention and 9.1 percent (69) of youth committed (Colorado Department of Public Safety, 1998).

Table 5. Colorado Top 10 Female Offenses (Arrest Statistics), 1992

Colorado Offense


Larceny -- theft

4,370 28


2,524 16

All other -- non-traffic

2,495 18

Liquor laws

1,265 8

Curfew and loitering

1,184 7.6

Other assaults

1,164 7

Disorderly conduct

939 6


330 2

Motor vehicle theft

245 1.5

Aggravated assault

199 1.2

Source: Colorado Division of Criminal Justice (1994)

Approach to Female Offenders

In 1995, using monies secured through the OJJDP's Challenge Activity Program, the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice established a statewide committee to examine the needs of at-risk young women and those young women already involved in the juvenile justice system. Functioning as a subcommittee of the Colorado Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Council, Girls E.T.C. (Equitable Treatment Coalition) meets on a bimonthly basis and consists of practitioners from across the State who are involved or interested in programming specifically for female offenders. After several months of planning, the coalition developed a four-pronged approach to addressing the unique needs of young women in the State's juvenile justice system:

  • Public Education. The coalition has developed a general brochure describing the need for and substance of gender-specific services for young women. Several individual handouts have been developed that highlight specific resources and/or information of interest to those within the juvenile justice system. These include a summary of strategies for successful programs, a national resource list, a fact sheet, and a resource bibliography.

  • Directory of State Services and Programs. The coalition has distributed a program profile designed to collect information on individual programs throughout the State that are serving young women. It is anticipated that this information will be compiled into a program directory, which will be available to all practitioners and juvenile justice professionals in the State.

  • Training at Professional Events. While initially intending to host a statewide conference, the coalition recognized that the best way to reach the greatest number of people was to attempt to get gender on the agenda of every professional conference in the State. This training was provided through a separate contract with CRA and was conducted at more than six statewide juvenile justice conferences and for the staffs of several individual programs.

  • Regional Trainings. The coalition also planned and hosted six regional training workshops designed to reach local juvenile justice practitioners in their home communities. Held in Denver, Pueblo, Alamosa, Fort Collins, and Grand Junction, these one-day sessions contained a half day of training on gender-specific services and a half day of organized planning around meeting the needs of adolescent female offenders. The training was again provided through a contract with CRA. It is estimated that more than 600 practitioners were trained during these sessions.

    Pre and posttests were administered at these trainings to evaluate the impact the training had on both attitudes and program efforts. A separate report on the findings is being prepared by the Division of Criminal Justice's Research Unit (Colorado Division of Criminal Justice 1995, p. 1).

Through additional Challenge Activity funding, the State awarded a separate contract to provide additional training and onsite technical assistance to local programs throughout the State. Programs wishing to apply for such assistance need to show community support and a plan of action for program development. Finally, the coalition will also begin discussion on the development of a legislative policy to ensure equity in funding for programs to serve young women.


Annie E. Casey Foundation. 1998. KIDS COUNT Online Service. Annie E. Casey Foundation, Baltimore, MD.

Colorado Department of Education Research and Evaluation Division. 1998. Department of Education Fact Sheets. Denver, CO.

Colorado Department of Public Safety. 1998. Division of Criminal Justice 1997 UCR Data. Denver, CO.

Colorado Division of Criminal Justice. 1994. Colorado Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Three Year Plan FY 1994. Submitted to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Washington, DC.

Colorado Division of Criminal Justice. 1995. Colorado 1995 Challenge Activity E Program Summary. Denver, CO.

Poe-Yamagata, E., and J.A. Butts. 1996. Female Offenders in the Juvenile Justice System: Statistics Summary. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Washington, DC.

Juvenile Female Offenders: A Status of the States Report October 1998