Kansas partnership looks to close Juvenile Correction Center, point children towards reformation, rehabilitation instead

FILE - Kansas Juvenile Correction Center
FILE - Kansas Juvenile Correction Center(WIBW)
Published: Oct. 16, 2021 at 2:49 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - One partnership in Kansas is looking to close the Kansas Juvenile Correction Center in Topeka and point to rehabilitation and reformation for children’s crimes instead of punishment.

Progeny, a youth-adult partnership focused on reimagining the juvenile justice system in Kansas, says it collaborated with Kansas Appleseed to release From Harm to Healing: The Blueprint to Healthier Outcomes for Kansas Youth, a new report which highlights an urgent need to close the state’s last remaining centralized youth prison. It said the report details steps that must be taken to move toward effective youth justice with the closure of the Kansas Juvenile Correction Center.

Progeny said the report follows the recent release of its Five Years of SB 367: Kansas’s Landmark Juvenile Justice Reform and Its Implementation report, outlining the state of youth justice reform in the Sunflower State.

The organization said the Blueprint report examines the financial and social costs of keeping minors behind bars at KJCC and suggests a system based on prevention and rehabilitation over punishment.

In Kansas, Progeny said it can cost $134,224 to imprison a child for one year, but less than $10,000 to provide public education. Moreover, it said Kansas spends an average of $368 per day per incarcerated child at KJCC, while it only costs $21 per day to supervise one child on probation.

“Youth incarceration is costly, ineffective, and inhumane, and we know it doesn’t work,” said Nichole Lee, Campaign Manager of Progeny. “Our Blueprint shows why we need to invest in our young people’s futures instead of funding putting them behind bars. Now is our opportunity to reimagine the youth justice system and make Kansas a national leader in reform.”

Among other recommendations, Progeny said the Blueprint report outlines how money spent on youth incarceration in Kansas could be used to more effectively provide juveniles with resources and programs needed to thrive. It said these programs include community services, alternative education, recreational opportunities, mentoring and more.

“We are proud to support our partners at Progeny in the release of their Blueprint,” said Tracey C. Mason Sr., of CHD Boxing Gym. “Community organizations like ourselves provide creational and emotional outlets for youth that we know have such an important impact on them. It’s time to eliminate a punishment-based corrections system in Kansas and start prioritizing investments in a real continuum of care for our young people.”

Not only is juvenile incarceration in Kansas expensive and unproductive, but Progeny said it also disproportionately impacts Black and brown children. The Census Bureau estimates that about 6.1% of Kansans are Black, yet Black youth represent about 30% of the KJCC population.

“I’ve seen firsthand what incarceration does to young people, especially Black and brown youth, and know how important it is that we stop this harmful practice,” said Kristen Powell with The Coalition for Juvenile Justice. “We need a shift from the status quo, for youth and our communities. Now is the time to rethink everything we know about youth justice here in Kansas.”

To view the full report and its recommendations, click HERE.

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