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 to put these 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.

“Senate Bill 367 offers practical, sensible reform. This bill is about being smart on crime,” Brownback said. “It’s about making sure our communities are safe while juveniles are held accountable for their actions. It’s about reducing recidivism and preventing citizens from becoming victims of future crimes.”

These changes are in response to a growing trend of conservative criminal justice reform. This overwhelmingly conservative state passed the measures almost unanimously. The reforms – here and across the country – are known for prioritizing public safety, efficiency, and family involvement.

Kansas in particular was aware of its need for changes to its criminal justice system. In 2013 the DOJ reported that the state had the sixth highest rate of juvenile incarceration in the country. Hopefully, and those hopes are high given the results seen in other states with similar reforms, these changes will give juveniles involved in the criminal justice system another path to travel down, decreasing their likelihood of becoming adult offenders later in life as so often happens.

As reported in the Topeka-Capitol Journal, “The legislation stems from the work of the Kansas Juvenile Justice Workgroup, which met throughout 2015 […] The group found that as crime falls, the juvenile justice system isn’t keeping pace. The juvenile arrest rate has fallen more than 50 percent between 2004 and 2013, according to the workgroup, but the number of juveniles in community supervision and residential commitments hasn’t fallen at the same rate. The group also found that lower-level offenders make up a greater share of the out-of-home population, which is composed of offenders who are living in facilities, rather than at home. The report said the proportion of youths placed outside of home for misdemeanors had grown over the past decade, and accounted for about two-thirds of youths placed on case management supervision. “The workgroup worked long and hard,” Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, said, “based strictly on hard facts, hard data, empirical evidence to come up with a   report and recommendations for the Legislature that resulted in the legislation the governor (signed).”’

“Our current juvenile justice system … was shortchanging not only our youth who get involved in the juvenile justice system by not giving them the best chance for rehabilitation,” said Shawnee Republican Rep. John Rubin, “but actually was not the best system for protecting public safety because of the increased rate of recidivism.”

Governor Brownback is no stranger to criminal justice reform, having long spoken about the need to reduce recidivism in the state. While the momentum for reform has had its ups and down, clearly changes are coming again, along with a better future for Kansas citizens.