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, and eventually producing sweeping reform proposals aimed at improving outcomes for youth in the system while preserving public safety.

The panel comes at a time when concerns have been raised about the efficacy of Kansas’ juvenile justice system. While youth commitment rates have been falling in the state, they’ve been lagging behind national trends over a fourteen year period.

In a press release, Chief Justice Nuss stated that in the next six months, the new work group will “examine the juvenile justice system from top to bottom”:

“It will take a hard look at our system to see if it is working as best as it can, and if it is not up to snuff, the experts on the Workgroup will recommend changes to improve outcomes across the board.”

While the work group will be seeking efficiencies across the entire system, among their primary concerns will be preserving public safety while holding juvenile offenders accountable their actions, controlling costs, and improving outcomes, not solely for juveniles, but for their families and communities as well.

One of the benefits of this new initiative lies in the fact that a portion of any monetary savings realized through sensible changes in administering juvenile justice in the state can then be reinvested in evidence-based programs known to reduce recidivism and promote public safety. Many other states have successfully used this model in the past. In a sense, reform will pay for further reform.

In the press release, Gov. Brownback stated that juvenile justice reform–driven by an intensive, data-based evaluation of the system–is a “priority” of his administration:

“I look forward to an honest assessment of what’s working and what could be improved. I want to see recommendations that help Kansas protect public safety and improve outcomes across our juvenile justice system.”

The full press release can be found here.

Photo: County News Center, San Diego