Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission Approves Recommendations

December 1, 2020

The Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission met last month to vote on final policy recommendations to help maintain public safety while being responsive to the state’s budget deficit. These recommendations—all but one of which were unanimously approved—were developed during the state’s Justice Reinvestment effort, which launched in September.

If advanced by the legislature, the approved recommendations will allow Kansas to better use limited taxpayer dollars to invest in stronger supervision and effective community-based treatment. Some of the most impactful recommendations follow.

  • Expand the use of probation by amending the drug and the nondrug sentencing grids to better reflect actual sentencing disposition patterns. Prioritize expensive prison beds for people convicted of extremely serious crimes.
  • Encourage greater use of diversion among prosecutors by building on the infrastructure of existing legislation (Senate Bill 123). SB 123 currently provides substance use disorder treatment for people convicted of drug possession. Diverting more people with substance use disorders to treatment prior to conviction will help reduce the collateral consequences associated with convictions.
  • Provide a more consistent and fairer supervision approach statewide by
    • establishing a workgroup to standardize conditions of supervision across the state;
    • forming another workgroup to consolidate concurrent supervision (when a person is supervised by two or more supervision agencies simultaneously) to reduce unnecessary burdens that make it difficult for people to succeed on supervision; and
    • formalizing the Department of Corrections’ approach to parole supervision violations, including implementing effective responses to both positive and negative behaviors to reduce recidivism.

Over the past several months, the Commission used the Justice Reinvestment process to conduct a wide-ranging study of Kansas’s criminal justice system. Based on the results, the Commission developed recommendations to improve victims’ services, responses to violent crime, sentencing, community supervision, behavioral health, and reentry.

The state legislature will consider passing the Commission’s recommendations during the 2021 legislative session.

 

This project was supported by Grant No. 2019- ZB-BX-K002 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

About the Author


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Patrick Armstrong
Project Manager, State Initiatives
Patrick Armstrong evaluates state statutes, case law, and court rules, as well as engages stakeholders involved in the Justice Reinvestment process. Prior to joining the CSG Justice Center, Patrick worked at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, as well
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as for the Brennan Center for Justice in New York, where he explored avenues to eliminate racial disparities in the criminal justice system. He was also an intern for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office in California. As a student athlete on the basketball team at the University of California, Berkeley, Patrick earned a BA in political science and African American studies. He earned his JD from the New York University School of Law.
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