Recession Throws Momentum For Kansas Prison Reform Into Reverse


Treatment and support services for Kansas inmates re-entering society cost $12.6 million two years ago. Mental health care, job training, and community residential programs for people on parole helped make Kansas a national model for success. Now the model has been dismantled, says the Kansas City Star. In the year beginning in July, the corrections department will get about $5.3 million to fund those programs under Gov. Mark Parkinson's budget recommendations. Experts know that a convict ill-prepared for “re-entry” – especially in this job market – may mean only rising crime in the coming years.

The Kansas method of preparing inmates for re-entering society was considered the crown jewel of correctional systems. Congress in 2008 established “Second Chance” grants to help states create programs for drug rehabilitation, education, family reintegration, and transitional housing. Recidivism rates had in 2007 plunged statewide to 2.2 percent, less than half the recidivism of the early part of the decade. The prison population and new admissions also were on the decline, enabling the state to project that Kansas needn't worry about expanding its prison capacity for 10 years. The recession and consecutive budget blowouts have thrown that momentum into reverse. “Just like that – the national model we created no longer exists,” said state Rep. Pat Colloton, a Republican who leads the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice.

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