Gov. Sam Brownback has abolished the Kansas Parole Board to save money, the Wichita Eagle reports. He named Raymond Roberts, warden of the El Dorado Correctional Facility, to head the corrections department. In a move projected to save nearly$500,000, a three-person committee of corrections staff will take over responsibility for making parole decisions for the approximately 500 inmates who remain incarcerated with sentences allowing for the possibility of parole.
The new group will take over the Parole Board's responsibility to conduct hearings and decide whether to reincarcerate ex-convicts accused of violating conditions of their parole. Board member Patricia Biggs has expressed concern that abolition of the board could lead to staff decisions to release prisoners to ease overcrowding, or, alternatively, to keep people in prison longer to justify expansion of staff or prisons. She said the plan raises issues of due process of law for alleged parole violators, because the same agency responsible for bringing the accusaion would also be responsible for deciding the defendant's guilt and punishment. Brownback said the need for parole oversight is dwindling because the state has moved to a system in which new convicts are given exact sentences that are not open to parole review. New corrections director Roberts is known for encouraging Christian evangelism as part of the corrections system. A center he established is open to inmates of all faiths. Brownback said Roberts' focus on ministry as part of the corrections process “gives men and women serving their time the opportunity to change their lives.”