Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has been one of the most outspoken conservative leaders in support of criminal justice reform. He declared, “We should not be resigned to allowing generation after generation to return to prison because they don’t have the tools to break the cycle. I personally favor a number of these faith-based approaches. But if there are other approaches, let’s try them. This is an enormous problem, and since the ’70s, we have basically just said we’ll lock people up.”i

Brownback, one of the sponsors of the federal Second Chance Act signed by President George W. Bush to facilitate successful offender reentry, inspired positive changes in Kansas when he told a forum in 2005: “I want to see recidivism cut in half in the next five years, and I want it to start in Kansas.”ii

In response to a high rate of re-offending by ex-prisoners, in 2007 the state legislature funded a range of programs—such as education, drug treatment, and supportive housing—to help them reintegrate. The approach appeared to work: the number of ex-offenders returning to prison dropped by 16 percent from 2007 to 2009.iii

However, in 2010, the inmate count and recidivism began to creep up again after funding was reduced for these alternative approaches. In August 2010, the Kansas Sentencing Commission reported a prison population of 8,269, ten more than the system’s capacity, and the commission projects the population rising by another 2000 over ten years.iv Nonetheless, the state still has far fewer inmates than it was projected to have at this time prior to the 2007 changes.

In April 2016, the Kansas legislature passed—and Gov. Brownback signed—SB 367, a sweeping bill aimed at reforming the state’s underperforming juvenile justice system. This legislation comes on the heels of a 2013 DOJ report indicating that the state has the nation’s sixth highest juvenile incarceration rate. While youth arrests have been falling in the state, Kansas’ performance has nonetheless fallen behind the national average for over a decade, as the number of youths in community supervision or residential commitments haven’t fallen at an equal pace.

SB 367 seeks to spend less money incarcerating such relatively low-risk youth offenders—who can be better served in community-based programs while living at home—and focus resources on higher-risk cases.

Another important aspect of the legislation is to put more youths into local programming that will reduce the likelihood of their reoffending after their sentence is finished, thus protecting public safety and reducing the numbers of new victims to crimes, while also reducing the later costs within the criminal justice system.

Kansas Should Embrace Asset Forfeiture Reform

Currie Myers | February 13, 2019
In 2018, Kansas was able to take a first step toward having better controls over asset forfeiture by passing a law that mandates greater transparency over assets seized by…

Should we spend $89,000 to separate a child from his parents?

Manfred Wendt | July 31, 2017
We all make mistakes, but not all mistakes result in the same consequences. Sometimes, consequences can lead to the restriction of liberty. For children, in more extreme cases, it…

With Gov. Brownback’s Signature of Sweeping Reform Bill, Changes Are Coming for Juveniles in Kansas

Right on Crime | April 11, 2016
Today, Kansas Governor Brownback signed new legislation into effect that will try to keep juvenile offenders near their families while serving their punishments. The goals of the legislation are…

Kansas Gov. Brownback, State Leaders Announce Bipartisan Panel To Investigate Juvenile Justice Reform

Michael Haugen | June 11, 2015
Earlier today, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, and legislative leaders announced the creation of a new bipartisan panel tasked with systematically investigating Kansas’ juvenile justice system,…

“Let’s be smart on crime”

Right on Crime | May 1, 2014
“These principles of being smart on crime find roots from the group Right on Crime. Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas have utilized the principles of quality reentry programs to promote…

Vikrant Reddy on Denial of Cert in ‘Saint Joseph Abbey v. Castille’

Right on Crime | October 16, 2013
In this National Review Online article, ROC policy analyst Vikrant Reddy discusses the ruling of Saint Joseph Abbey v. Castille, a case about the unlicensed sale of a funeral…

Marc Levin on NPR’s On Point radio show

Right on Crime | February 21, 2013
Policy Director Marc Levin appeared on NPR’s On Point radio show to discuss the costs of prisons. Here is the link. Right on Crime supports applying the principles of…

Salina, Kansas Experiments with Restorative Justice

Right on Crime | October 23, 2012
Certain juveniles in Salina, Kansas, will now have an opportunity to restore their communities and their victims after they run afoul of the law. Read more

Encouraging New CSG Report on Declining Recidivism in 7 States

Right on Crime | September 25, 2012
This morning, the Council of State Governments Justice Center released an encouraging new report on declining recidivism rates. The report examined the 2005 and 2007 recidivism rates in seven…

New Ministry of Justice Report Cites Kansas Justice Reinvestment as a Model

Right on Crime | July 24, 2011
The Ministry of Justice of The United Kingdom recently released a comprehensive report/proposal on effective punishment, rehabilitation, and sentencing to provide solutions to the revolving prison door that plagues…

Kansas Forms New Partnership To Take On Recidivism

Right on Crime | June 29, 2011
Kansas spends over $300 million per year on the incarceration of some 15,000 inmates in county and state prisons, and it boasts a recidivism rate of around 43% (on…

Kansas Abolishes its Parole Board

Right on Crime | April 8, 2011
Earlier this year, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed an executive order to abolish the state’s Parole Board and transfer its duties to the Department of Corrections. The Legislature had…
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