Facing a state budget shortfall and a unique opportunity to address recent prison population growth, Governor Laura Kelly and the Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission—led by Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett—today launched a bipartisan effort to save taxpayer dollars and reinvest those savings in proven strategies that control corrections costs and enhance public safety.
“It costs Kansas taxpayers nearly $30,000 annually to keep each person incarcerated in Kansas. Safely reducing that price tag gives us the chance to invest in substance use programs and mental health services that help stop the cycle of reoffending,” Governor Kelly said.
The effort, part of the federally funded Justice Reinvestment Initiative, will examine a variety of areas within the state’s criminal justice system. It will provide opportunities to positively address trends in the state, including high rates of unemployment among previously incarcerated people and prison admissions among people who have committed low-level crimes and individuals on supervision who didn’t commit a new crime, but violated the terms of their probation or parole.
Governor Kelly also mentioned re-focusing on protecting public safety, rehabilitation being the vital pathway in which to succeed. “So that offenders can return to society with the skills they need to hold a job, find stable housing, and succeed. That’s how the system can work for both the people it’s responsible for rehabilitating and for all the people of this great state, because it will make us all safer in the end.”
The prison population in Kansas has been on a steady path of growth; it was already at full capacity before March 2020, with a projected increase of 14 percent by 2029 at the cost of $209 million.
“Kansas prisons are seeing the same people returning again and again,” District Attorney Marc Bennett said. “As we seek to identify where improvements can be made in our system, Justice Reinvestment will help us ensure we are using our resources effectively.”
Kansas’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which was jointly initiated by leaders from the state’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches, will include an extensive review of the state’s criminal justice system by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center.
The national, nonpartisan organization, known for developing research-driven public safety strategies, will ultimately share its findings and offer policy recommendations to the commission.