Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

“Kansas’ model parole program collapses with state budget cuts”

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That’s the unfortunate headline of this report from the Kansas City Star. By pouring resources in recent years into mental health care, job training, and community residential services for parolees, Kansas became a national model for reentry programming and achieved a 2% recidivism rate — something California, with its recidivism rate nearing 70%, would surely envy. (OK, it’s not that easy to directly compare recidivism rates across states since they may treat parole violators and record data differently, but I think it’s fair to assume that California’s rate is much, much higher than Kansas’s under any measure.)

As the article notes, when Congress passed the Second Chance Act in 2008, the idea was to provide states with block grants so that they could imitate Kansas; now, Kansas itself may have to start applying for grants. Gov. Mark Perkinson’s budget recommendations for the next fiscal year would reduce the allocation for reentry programs to just $5.3 million (from $12.6 million two years ago). These cuts are just part of a broader set of measures that could negatively impact the Kansas criminal justice system for years to come:

It is too early to know how program cuts, both inside and outside prison walls, may affect future recidivism rates, or even overall public safety, corrections officials say. But they already face a new penal landscape, as about $25 million has been chopped from the corrections budget since 2008.

Last year, four minimum-security units were shut down, many inmates were routed to tighter quarters, and treatment and education programs lost more than half their funding. …

Gone from most Kansas communities are the structured group-living arrangements that provided offenders a bed, counseling and supervision while they sought full-time work or fought off addictions.

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