Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mentally ill in Kansas prisons more than double since 2006

From the Topeca-Capital Journal
Jan. 26, 2013

Brownback reallocates $10M for mental health initiative
By Tim Carpenter

Republican Sen. Steve Fitzgerald is convinced growth in the proportion of mentally ill Kansans in jails and prisons arcs back to the state's failure to develop an effective community-based system of treatment.

His district includes Lansing Correctional Facility, which serves as one of the many repositories for people with mental health challenges beyond the capacity of local treatment providers. State psychiatric hospitals — Osawatomie State Hospital, Larned State Hospital and Rainbow Mental Health Facility — also are under duress.

In effect, Fitzgerald said, Kansas Department of Corrections Secretary Ray Roberts is by default the provider of last resort for a growing cadre of people with mental illness.

"You have become responsible for dealing with our inability to address our mental health problems," Fitzgerald said.

Roberts is well aware of the 126 percent increase in mentally ill prisoners in Kansas since 2006. Nearly two of five Kansas' adult inmates are classified as mentally ill. Men and women on parole, with untreated mental deficiencies, often cycle through the criminal justice system.

"It's one of the critical issues," Roberts said.

In response to this corrections reality and following the December slaying of 20 children and six adults at a school in Newtown, Conn., Gov. Sam Brownback shelved plans to cut funding to the Kansas mental health network and announced he would redirect $10 million for a new mental health initiative.

"I am committed to strengthening this system and making it more effective," Brownback said.

Shawn Sullivan, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, is responsible for developing a program addressing the governor's call for improved services to people most likely to wind up in a state hospital or behind bars.

He said $5 million would continue to be allocated to the state's 27 community mental health centers.
The other half of the proposed funding would be dedicated to a half-dozen new regional recovery support centers assigned to work with adults and youths with repetitive hospital admissions or with frequent contact with law enforcement or the court system, he said.

Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, said during a recent Senate hearing she was skeptical a regional approach would advance the objective of providing intensive case management of people with mental illness in each city and town.

Read the rest here.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Once a Model for Reform, Kansas Cuts Vital Prison Services

by Matt Kelley April 09, 2010 08:48 AM (PT)

In recent years, Kansas has been a standard-bearer for corrections reform. It's managed to inspire reformers around the country by reducing recidivism through pre-release education and post-release services — but all that is being jeopardized now by budget cuts that could gut its core programs.

A we’ve written here recently, state budget crises have led to both good and bad cutbacks in prison and parole programs. For many states, the Great Recession has served as a wake-up call to rein in wasteful, destructive incarceration policies. Elsewhere, budget shortfalls have meant cuts to promising, innovative programs that are helping former prisoners succeed and helping defendants avoid jail through alternatives like education, work release and drug treatment.

Kansas, unfortunately, falls into the latter category. Just two years ago, its innovative reentry services had a budget of $12 million. This year, though, such services are getting less than half of that — $5.3 million.

Prior to these cuts, the state was extraordinarily successful: it had reduced recidivism dramatically and cut parole violations by a third. The very programs responsible, though, are now getting the ax. An excellent story by Rick Montgomery in the Kansas City Star paints a bleak picture of these cuts. The bottom line? While it's too early to tell how the cuts will affect recidivism, unraveling the safety net so suddenly can't be a good thing. It's quite likely that instead of funding treatment, the state will simply end up paying for prison cells to house a greater number of people re-committing crime. The price of human suffering and diminished safety is yet another cost — one that doesn't so readily translate into a cash value.

Even as Kansas's model is threatened, other states — like Michigan — are making more judicious cuts where they count, closing prisons and focusing on services and treatment. Likewise, California is aiming to address its massive prison problem by reducing the number of prisoners who get sent back for petty parole violations.

Meanwhile, Kansas looks like it's rapidly losing its status as a model reform state, and instead becoming a symbol of precisely what not to do.

Via Prison Law Blog

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Senate Judiciary panel passes bill to eliminate the death penalty

UPDATED: Senate Judiciary panel passes bill to eliminate the death penalty

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TOPEKA – The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill Friday that would abolish the state’s death penalty for crimes committed after July 1.

By a vote of 7-4, the bill now goes to the full Senate for discussion.

Senators had considered two bills: Senate Bill 208, which was debated last year, and Senate Bill 375, which replaces the death penalty with the crime of aggravated murder. The new crime comes with a mandatory life without parole sentence.

The committee tabled the first bill and moved forward Senate Bill 375.

Voting yes were Republican senators Dwayne Umbarger, Thayer; John Vratil, Leawood; Mary Pilcher Cook, Shawnee; Les Donovan, Wichita; Chairman Tim Owens, Overland Park, and Democratic senators Laura Kelly, Topeka and David Haley, Kansas City, Kan.

Voting no were Republican senators Jean Schodorf, Wichita; Derek Schmidt, Independence; Julia Lynn, Olathe and Terry Bruce, Hutchinson.

Schodorf said she was voting no in committee because she already knew she would vote that way on the Senate floor.

Schmidt, who is the chamber’s majority leader, urged the senators not to move the measure forward pointing out it was unlikely to succeed this year.

“The question is not is the death penalty going to be repealed this year,” he said. “The question is at what point does it stop this year.”

Others disagreed.

“People need to be able to review something as serious as a death penalty consideration because this is truly life and death we are talking about,” Owens said.

For more, read Saturday’s Wichita Eagle.

* By Jeannine Koranda

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Information about jails in Kansas: