Spring Creek Youth Services Center at 3190 E Las Vegas St, Colorado Springs, CO 80906 photographed Wednesday, August 13, 2014. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

The Colorado Division of Youth Services should “immediately and safely” decrease the number of incarcerated children to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in juvenile detention centers, the ACLU and a collation of legal aid and advocacy groups said Thursday.

In a letter to juvenile justice officials, the groups outlined steps they said would protect children and their families, including releasing children deemed vulnerable by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They asked officials to stop placing new children in detention, or to “dramatically decrease” the practice, and to reduce in-person court and probation appearances.

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The letter also urges officials to allow children in custody video visitation with their families and service providers, including attorneys.

It requests a written and public plan for how DYS will provide adequate care to youth in secure facilities in the event of an outbreak and increase medical resources, including staff and equipment, as necessary to execute this plan.

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The group cited a “heightened risk of infection for people who are involved in the legal system” in urging the changes.

Also signing the letter were the Colorado Office of the State Public Defender, the Colorado Office of the Alternate Defense Counsel, the Colorado Juvenile Defender Center and nine other organizations.

The letter comes two days after a similar coalition involving the American Civil Liberties Union called for sweeping changes to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus in courthouses, jails and prisons, including curbs on new arrests, reducing jail and prison populations, and ordering fewer in-court appearances.

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