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Statement In Response to Denver Westword Article

Tiera A Brown | Published on 4/16/2024

The Sam Cary Bar Association issues this statement supported by: Transformative Justice Project (“TJP”) and Fully Liberated Youth (F.L.Y.”)


The Sam Cary Bar Association is deeply hurt and offended by the most recent issue of the Denver Westword magazine. The racist imagery and cover page entitled “Colorado's Youngest Criminals Aren't Kidding Around, and Metro Denver DAs Unpack Why,” hearkens back to the late 20th century “Super-Predator” myth which was successful in dehumanizing young Black boys and sensationalizing crime statistics to spread fear amongst society at large.[1] Not only did this fearmongering make it easier to suspend feelings of empathy towards young people[2], but it also distracted the masses from critically addressing the systemic roots of youth crime and violence.

As an organization whose purpose is to strengthen the network and strength of Black attorneys, judges, and legal professionals for the benefit of the Black community in our struggles for social, political, and economic rights, we find hit pieces like this disturbing and counter-productive to achieving the goals of a more peaceful and equitable society. Many of us have Black children who will already be socially othered because of the color of their skin. Media narratives such as this not only serve to ostracize our children further, but will also inspire law enforcement and vigilantes such as Bernard Goetz and George Zimmerman to wage war against our children. We, as a community, cannot tolerate this.

The lack of journalistic integrity displayed by Denver Westword is shamefully lacking and this is evidenced by its commitment to amplify the voices of prosecutors while there are defense attorneys, community leaders, spiritual leaders, school officials, social workers, and the youth themselves who are equally, if not better positioned to speak about the crime and violence that happens in our own communities. This unprincipled and reckless manner of reporting is further demonstrated when one considers Westword’s reliance on data from the ideologically driven “think tank” Common Sense Institute. Despite CSI’s analysis of the police-reported price tag of youth crime and violence, as a society we know 

that it is far cheaper to meet the social needs of youth and their families, than it is to further criminalize and incarcerate them.[1] The evidence shows that youth incarceration does not reduce delinquent behavior.[2] Colorado has not only decreased youth incarceration, but Colorado has also decreased youth crime overall, in part because of the work of those who understand that the crisis of youth crime does not exist in a vacuum. The broader picture shows that Colorado Judicial filings showed a 25-30% decrease in juvenile filings and that 60% of youth are detained for non-violent offenses.[3]

Proponents of youth incarceration do not need any more advocates. The community needs solutions. The community needs media outlets that understand the value of publishing accurate and nuanced narratives when discussing and linking crime to the Black community. Denver Westword is missing an incredible opportunity to call out and confront the systemic inequities that perpetuate the harms of the juvenile legal system. Ironically, this statement requesting that the Denver Westword do better is penned while  Colorado constituents are learning that lawmakers are leaving loaded guns unattended in the Capitol bathroom. We must counter these harmful narratives and continue pursuing strategies and policies that have proven to have a positive effect on our social fabric. We cannot afford to repeat history. We cannot leave our youth to navigate these issues on their own without the support of their entire community. We must do better because we should now know better!


Tiera Brown, Esq. 
President, Sam Cary Bar Association 


[1] Justice Policy Institute, Sticker Shock 2020: The Cost of Youth Incarceration (2020) (which found that the average cost of locking up youth is $588 a day while effective community-based programs, providing individualized and wraparound services, can cost as little as $75 a day.)

[2] Richard Mendel, “Why Youth Incarceration Fails: An Updated Review of the Evidence.” The Sentencing Project, March 27, 2023,

[3] Colorado State Judicial Data via CORA request 2022

[1] Carroll Bogert and Lynnell Hancock, “Superpredator: The Media Myth That Demonized a Generation of Black Youth,” The Marshall Project, November 20, 2020,

[2] Id.