In the late 1990s, Kansas legislators enacted record tax cuts and increased sentences for crimes. In 2000, the bill came due, says the Lawrence (Ks.) Journal-World. Charles Simmons, head of the state prison system, was running out of room for inmates and sought $17 million for more cells. Lawmakers passed a controversial measure that Attorney General Phill Kline, a Republican seeking re-election, has used to hammer his opponent, Democrat Paul Morrison. Kline, who as a legislators voted no, accused some who supported it of being soft on crime and implied they share responsibility for vicious crimes that have been committed.
Morrison was vice chairman of the Kansas Sentencing Commission that produced the plan and supported it. He says it was legislation that freed up prison space to put away heinous criminals, thus preventing crimes from occurring. Former state Sen. David Adkins said it is impossible to boil down the facts of the law into a sound bite or 30-second television ad. Lawmakers decided to try to stop clogging up the prison with parole violators by reducing the amount of time certain inmates would be on parole once they left prison. The law was a success in terms of managing the prison population. Kline says that many of the inmates who were discharged committed new crimes to land themselves back in prison. Supporters sai that had nothing to do with the law but reflected the fact that many criminals commit new offenses and return to prison. Adkins said lawmakers are partially to blame for the revolving door because they have shortchanged prison rehabilitation programs.