On Wednesday, February 16, the House Judiciary Committee heard House Bill 22-1131, which prohibits juvenile court prosecution of children 12 years and younger, and was laid over until later this month. Parent and Stand Advocacy Fellow, Pamela Kaspar, shared her story in support of the bill.
Thank you Chair Weissman, Vice Chair Tipper and other House Judiciary committee members. My name is Pamela Kaspar, I am a District 1 resident, a social work scholar, and a parent. I'm speaking today in favor of House Bill 22- 1131: Reduce Justice-involvement For Young Children.
I grew up in a predominately white suburb of Denver. I was an insecure child and teenager filled with angst and anger. My father was raised by a violent alcoholic mother and orphaned at the age of 15. He never received treatment for his childhood trauma and thus continued the cycle of abuse in our home. My sister and I found connections with the “misfits” of our school– kids raised by addicts, kids raised by their grandparents because their parents had died from an overdose, kids, who like us, found it normal to be punished through physical violence. We self-medicated with drugs and alcohol, we partied, we ditched classes.
I share these experiences with you not to garner sympathy or for shock value, rather, because I am not alone. I am not an exception. However, my life would have been drastically different if I hadn’t been a white suburban kid. Society saw me as a child acting out, not as an imminent threat. I was a lost soul who was going through a phase. I was granted the leeway to make poor choices without fearing incarceration. I could get intoxicated behind the public library and stumble home. Neighbors would see us and shake their heads in disapproval, not reach for the phone to call the police. This is what I want for all of Colorado’s children– for their detrimental actions to be seen as a symptom of a problem rather than a chronic character flaw.
Through the help of therapy and medication, I’ve been able to become a stable, functional adult. I actively seek to break the cycle of abuse and trauma. Though I will always struggle with the effects of childhood trauma, I’m fortunate that trauma was not compounded by incarceration, and have studied the impacts and lasting effects of such trauma on children in my social work studies. Please, let’s stand for children make sure that these kids get the help that they need to become fully-actualized adults, not just wards of the state for life—it’ll mean more stability and opportunities for these kids. Please vote yes on HB22-1131.