TOPEKA, Kan. – Governor Sam Brownback signed legislation Wednesday that renews the state’s efforts to increase public safety, stem recent growth in its prison population and reduce recidivism.
HB 2684 establishes an inter-branch, bipartisan working group that will guide a comprehensive analysis of the state’s criminal justice system. This process will yield policy options that state leaders will consider when the legislature convenes in 2013.
Governor Brownback, Senate President Stephen Morris, Speaker Mike O’Neal, Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, and Department of Corrections Secretary Ray Roberts requested assistance from the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, the Pew Center on the States (Pew) and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). They expressed interest in pursuing “justice reinvestment,” an approach that brings together all three branches of government and uses data to identify ways the state can reduce corrections spending and use some of the savings generated to invest in strategies that increase public safety.
Before the ceremonial signing of HB 2684, Governor Brownback said: “I’ve made it a priority to ensure we do everything possible to make the transition from correctional facilities back to the community safe and successful. In Congress I authored the Second Chance Act to push states to reduce recidivism; here in Kansas I promoted a statewide mentoring program for people in prison. Now the Justice Reinvestment approach will help to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our criminal justice system, which will ultimately make our state an even safer place to live and work.”
The Justice Reinvestment Working Group will review the data analyses conducted by national criminal justice and corrections experts from the CSG Justice Center. Senator Tim Owens (R-Overland Park), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Representative Pat Colloton (R-Leawood), Chair of the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee, are set to co-chair the effort. Input will be solicited from various stakeholders, including judges, county and district attorneys, public defenders, law enforcement officials, advocates for crime victims and community treatment providers.
Rep. Colloton said: “I am excited to be a part of this comprehensive effort to analyze our criminal justice system. The Kansas Sentencing Commission recently projected that despite declining crime rates, the state’s prison population will grow by 23 percent between 2012 and 2021. Before we start down a path to construct more prison beds, let’s take a close look at the data to make sure we maximize the impact of whatever money we spend on public safety.”
“Not long ago, Kansas blazed a trail for states when it adopted new strategies to keep offenders crime and drug free. Those policies helped halt prison growth and generate savings, but the state’s prison population is once again on the rise,” said Adam Gelb, director of the Pew Public Safety Performance Project. “State leaders recognize that now is the right time to redouble the effort and take new steps to control spending and break the cycle of recidivism.”
Sen. Owens said: “Although Kansas’s violent crime rate fell over the past decade by 5 percent, we still lagged behind the 20 percent decline that the nation experienced over this time period. We must find better ways to reduce victimization.”
“We are pleased to provide assistance to state officials in Kansas who have demonstrated a bipartisan interest in using the Justice Reinvestment approach,” said Denise O’Donnell, Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the U.S. Department of Justice.
The first of three working group meetings is scheduled for mid-June, with policy options expected by the end of 2012.
The CSG Justice Center’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative to address corrections spending and public safety is a partnership with the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States, with additional support to CSG from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice. These efforts have provided similar data-driven analyses and policy options to state leaders in 16 states.
The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. The Justice Center provides practical, nonpartisan advice and consensus-driven strategies—informed by available evidence—to increase public safety and strengthen communities.