On December 9, 1994, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of all children detained at the Phillip B. Gilliam Youth Services Center (Gilliam) in Denver, Colorado, in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, against the State of Colorado. The plaintiffs, who were represented by the ACLU of Colorado, the Youth Law Center, and private counsel, sought declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1401 et seq. On February 2, 1995, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, in which they alleged that overcrowding and conditions at Gilliam violated their constitutional and statutory rights.
According to the complaint, Gilliam was so overcrowded that five juveniles were simultaneously confined to a single-occupancy cell for up to twenty hours in a day. Overcrowding and understaffing also led to inadequate access to functioning toilets, monitoring of at-risk or isolated detainees, educational opportunities, recreation, rehabilitation programming, and access to confidential legal counsel. Because detainees were inadequately classified and separated, older and more violent juveniles were housed with younger and non-violent detainees. While confined at Gilliam, children were physically and sexually assaulted and bullied into giving their meals by bigger children. Gilliam staff disciplined children with isolation and mechanical restraints, without hearing or notice.
On January 3, 1995, the United States District Court for the District of Colorado (Judge Edward W. Nottingham) ordered the parties to engage in settlement discussions before a magistrate (Judge Donald E. Abram) and, on March 23, 1995, the court (Judge Nottingham) stayed the proceedings to facilitate settlement. On May 26, 1995, the parties entered a settlement agreement, which was amended on May 30, 1995, to accommodate pending federal legislation, the "Stop Turning Out Prisoners Act." H.R. 667, Title III.
The settlement agreement was intended to ensure that conditions of detention were constitutional, safe, sanitary, humane, individualized, and rehabilitative. As such, the settlement agreement required the State to eliminate overcrowding, classify and separate detainees, hire enough employees to satisfy specific staff-to-juvenile ratios, screen all children for disabilities, provide all detainees with a bed (not a mattress on the floor), build a library, and implement disciplinary procedures that did not involve prolonged isolation and mechanical restraints. Other provisions of the settlement agreement addressed prompt and expert medical and mental health care, access to toilets, allowing children to decorate their walls, education, recreation, and individualized rehabilitation programming. The State agreed to pay the plaintiffs' attorneys' fees and costs.
On September 15, 1995, the court approved the class action settlement. The Court retained enforcement authority and actively monitored the State's compliance for three years. The court appointed two Court Monitors (Russ Van Vleet and Robert B. Rutherford Jr.) to monitor compliance. The settlement agreement was amended again on September 1, 1999, and then on July 26, 2001, but we do not have copies of either document. The docket ends wtih the July 2001 entry concerning the third amended settlement agreement; thus we have no information on any subsequent proceedings. Elizabeth Chilcoat - 05/26/2006