A few years ago, Kansas had figured out how to control its prison population and became a national model, says the Kansas City Star. Now Kansas has run out of beds for male prisoners, with a population last week of 8,411 – above the system's capacity of 8,259. In 10 years, the state is projected to be nearly 2,000 beds short. Kansas corrections leaders are talking seriously about two options: Find millions of dollars to house more prisoners – at a time when the state is struggling to pay for schools and social services – or start letting them go. The of crowding prisoners would lead to violence and lawsuits, prison officials say.
States like Mississippi have retreated from years of tough crime laws. Kansas experts are looking at the Mississippi solution of making nonviolent offenders eligible for parole after they have served 25 percent of their sentences. Another possibility suggested by the Kansas Sentencing Commission is to increase “good time” credit for some inmates from 15 or 20 percent to up to 50 percent, meaning prisoners who stay out of trouble could be released after serving half of their sentences. Changing the release time like that would violate promises the state made to those who have suffered at the hands of criminals, said Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman. Even nonviolent inmates such as drug addicts and burglars are mostly chronic criminals who will get out and cause trouble, he said, and the state is already failing to revoke parolees who should be put back in prison.