A few years ago, Kansas lawmakers decided to shake up the state’s corrections budget. They poured millions of dollars into community programs intended to rehabilitate offenders, help them find jobs and keep them out of prison. The changes, passed in 2007, reaped almost immediate awards. Overall recidivism rates in the state declined. The number of parolees who violated the terms of their release plummeted. Kansas was able to postpone construction of new prisons and, last year, lawmakers actually closed four prison facilities. With a push from U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, Congress soon funded a new national grant program patterned after what the state had accomplished.
The recession, however, has hit Kansas’ corrections budget hard. Now, budget cuts are threatening to undo the progress that generated national acclaim for the state just a few short years ago. Kansas lawmakers have slashed funding for substance-abuse treatment slots at the heart of the state’s community corrections program. Group living facilities for offenders have closed. And, this year, the corrections budget included a noticeable new line item: One of the prisons shuttered last year will re-open, driven in part by an uptick in the number of people who break the conditions of their release, such as missing an appointment with a probation officer or testing positive for drugs.
The recession, and the drain it’s put on state budgets, has produced similar quandaries in many of the 28 legislatures that have wrapped up their sessions for 2010. The trend in corrections this year is much the same as it was in 2009 — the first year in a long time that state spending on prisons actually went down. Lawmakers are still searching for savings anywhere they can find them.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010