Release: New Recommendations Highlight Potential Changes for Kansas’ Juvenile Justice System

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 10, 2015

New Recommendations Highlight Potential Changes for Kansas’ Juvenile Justice System  

Kansans United for Youth Justice: New Approach to Limit Youth Incarceration Marks Important Step, But Falls Short of Kansas’ Needs

TOPEKA – A workgroup focusing on reforming Kansas’ approach to juvenile justice issued new recommendations today, proposing policy changes that would limit the state’s overreliance on incarceration and move towards proven alternatives to youth prisons. The recommendations come from an inter-branch workgroup and technical assistance from the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

In October, a new grassroots campaign called Kansans United for Youth Justice launched to highlight the need for reforms that focus on proven alternatives to incarceration. It’s been almost 20 years since the Kansas Legislature enacted major legislation on juvenile justice and Kansas now spends more than $53 million each year to incarcerate kids or send them to out-of-home placements. Research has shown youth prisons contribute to high rates of reoffending, divert needed funding away from community rehabilitation programs, and have disproportionate impacts on youth of color.

The new workgroup’s recommendations include some important steps to reduce youth incarceration, but the recommendations leave large gaps that will result in many youth needlessly sent to youth prisons and other out-of-home placements for nonviolent offenses. .

Statement from Benet Magnuson, Executive Director of Kansas Appleseed and a Kansans United for Youth Justice member:

“The workgroup’s report confirms that Kansas faces a big juvenile justice problem, and we need strong leadership and comprehensive solutions to fix our broken system.  Kansas currently ranks 6th worst in the country for over-confinement of kids.

Our kids and our communities deserve a juvenile justice system that is effective, consistent, and sustainable – not the current system in Kansas, which wastes millions of dollars each year locking up kids who would be better served in the community.

Everyone who has studied the problems in Kansas agrees: Prisons and other out-of-home placements are almost always the most expensive and least effective response to kids who get into trouble. While the workgroup’s recommendations go part way to addressing these problems, they fail to create the comprehensive and consistent approach our communities need.

What our state needs now is strong leadership from the legislature to expand on the workgroup’s recommendations and ensure reform legislation – and increased funding for community alternatives – is meaningful enough to solve the big problems we face in our juvenile justice system.”

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