Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback plans to merge the state’s juvenile justice agency with the adult Department of Corrections system, arguing that two critical legislative audits show the need to abandon “a failed social services approach” to handling young offenders, reports the Associated Press. Brownback contends that the juvenile programs would be better managed and that money now going toward administration of the Juvenile Justice Authority could be diverted into programs for offenders.
The Republican governor plans to issue an executive order next year to the GOP-controlled Kansas Legislature, a move endorsed by incoming Senate majority leader Terry Bruce, a former county prosecutor. Legislators would have 60 days to reject it or the order will take effect on July 1. Brownback removed the Juvenile Justice Authority's top two officials earlier this year. Since then, the legislative audits questioned the authority's handling of safety issues and suggested that education programs fail to prepare young offenders for careers. The Department of Corrections houses 9,400 adult offenders, running seven prisons and a mental health center with an annual budget of about $282 million. The Juvenile Justice Authority oversees programs for 1,500 young offenders, housing about 330 of them at juvenile corrections centers. It has an annual budget of $90 million.