In Kansas, ‘Tough on Crime’ Talk Is Cheap, But Prisons Are Costly


“Tough talk on crime is cheap,” says the Wichita Eagle in an editorial. “What's costly is paying for prisons and deterring recidivism.” Kansas Department of Corrections Secretary Ray Roberts made clear in a speech last week that state leaders will need to do more to help the prison system cope with budget problems, including by expanding and improving intervention and post-release programs cut during the downturn.

The prison system took a cut of $4.7 million to $5.7 million for the year that began July 1, and Roberts presented some sobering facts: With 6,000 parolees and 9,500 inmates, the prison system is at capacity, and anticipating 2,100 more offenders over the next decade; 66 percent of inmates are drug abusers and 38 percent are mentally ill; and the average inmate age is 37 or 38 (up from 25 in 1975), and more than 800 inmates are older than 55, which means increased medical expenses. “Tough on crime,” the paper says, “also means paying the bills for prisons, parole officers, juvenile delinquency prevention and more.”

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