Skip to Content

Pueblo teens charged with violent crimes being released due to ‘lack of bed space,’ DA says

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- Amid an increase in violent crime allegedly perpetuated by teens in Pueblo County, the District Attorney's office is sounding the alarm on a lack of bed space at the Pueblo Youth Center. Currently, there are ten beds available as a form of pre-trial detention for teens in Pueblo, and DA Jeff Chostner says that is not nearly enough.

"In the last six to eight years we used to have 80 to 100 beds out there for our youth that got in serious trouble," Chostner said. "Now, that's down to ten beds and the difficulty for us is if we have another youth that gets in trouble, as we do, then the question is who gets in and who doesn't?"

10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner

The DA's office, and the Division of Youth Services, are being forced to make decisions on releasing potentially violent juveniles charged with crimes like robbery and attempted murder because of the lack of bed space. Due to changes in legislation, bed capacities have been cut from 327 beds in 2021 to 215 after the passing of SB21-071. Those changes were sponsored by three democrats from Arapahoe, Larimer, Adams, and Jefferson counties.

SB21-071 Bill Sponsors

"I think the reduction over the last decade has either been because of judicial philosophy in the state legislature or it's been a financial matter," Chostner said. "Either way, Pueblo County has suffered in how we handle serious youthful offenders."

The Pueblo Youth Center is a 20-bed capacity facility. However, ten of those beds are allocated to numerous other judicial districts in the state from the New Mexico border north up to Pueblo County. If those beds are full, Pueblo County has a max capacity of ten.

Pueblo Youth Center

When asked why he believes the bed space has been limited so severely in recent years, DA Chostner said it comes down to differing philosophies on detaining violent youth charged with crimes.

"I think it's folks who think that, generally speaking, jail is a bad experience for people and that we should limit that as much as possible," Chostner said." "I don't necessarily disagree with that, but to essentially eliminate it, or to restrict it that we're still allowing very serious criminals out on the street is of concern to me."

Just in the last two months, Pueblo Police have arrested numerous juveniles for violent crimes. On February 28, citizens were simply leaving their homes for work when they were allegedly carjacked and shot at by multiple teens ranging from 12-16 years-old. They have all been arrested and at least one is being prosecuted as an adult for attempted murder charges.

Then, on March 8, Pueblo Police arrested more teens for a series of car thefts. Now, Chief Juvenile Prosecutor for the 10th Judicial District Anne Mayer, says multiple of the teens arrested are being held at the Pueblo Youth Center, and if more juvenile crime is on the horizon, difficult decisions will have to be made.

Anne Mayer

"We know that violent crime is increasing, overall crime is increasing among this population, and yet our beds are going down. You end up having to choose between two people that are not safe to release," Mayer said.

According to the most recent annual report in 2022 for the Colorado Division of Youth Services, the number of youth admitted to their facilities for a violent crime has increased from 31% in 2019 to 43% in 2022.

Mayer calls the pleas to limit youth detention a "noble goal," but she says the priority has to be community safety.

"The facility is built for about four times more kids than it's currently housing. So right now there are entire pods that aren't being used," Mayer said. "They [legislators] say that safety is the priority, but then they cut it out from under us when they take away our beds and ability to hold dangerous kids."

13 Investigates reached out to a spokesperson for the Division of Youth Services to get their reaction to the DA's office's comments. We are still awaiting a response.

Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


KRDO NewsChannel 13 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content