Across the country, local communities are seeking new ways to improve outcomes for people on community supervision while continuing to preserve public safety. One such community is Wichita, Kansas—located in Sedgwick County—where local leaders wanted to find opportunities to strengthen supervision and services for the large number of people on parole.
- In 2019, a considerable share of people released to parole in Kansas—one-third of the total parole population—were released to Sedgwick County. As of August 2020, 68 percent of people paroled to the county were living in Wichita.
- The Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) assessed almost two-thirds of people on parole in the county as being at a moderate to high risk of reoffending.
- People on parole in Wichita have significant behavioral health needs, creating a need for appropriate programming and resources.
- In comparison to other counties, a larger percentage of the people on parole in Sedgwick County were sentenced for a violent offense. In 2018, one-third of all domestic violence incidents in Kansas occurred in Sedgwick County.
In collaboration with The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, local leaders in Wichita, including the KDOC Southern Parole Region and the Wichita Police Department (WPD), assessed program, treatment, and service systems available to people on parole in Wichita and Sedgwick County in 2020. The team also worked with local leaders to analyze county- and city-level data and conducted focus groups with key stakeholders, including parole officers and supervisors and people on parole in Wichita. Though the project began with a focus on the parole population, the goals and action steps that resulted from the assessment apply to the broader community supervision population, including people supervised under KDOC Community Corrections.
Goal: Reduce parole revocations by 30–35 percent by coordinating information-sharing among law enforcement, parole agencies, and service providers.
A lack of formal mechanisms to communicate in real time about interactions between law enforcement and people on parole contributed to public safety and supervision challenges. This lack of collaboration made it difficult for supervision officers to know if law enforcement had interactions with their clients. And minimal information sharing between criminal justice, supervision, and behavioral health stakeholders led to problems identifying people on supervision with immediate needs who were at a high risk of revocation.
Recommended Action Steps:
- Create information-sharing protocols between WPD and KDOC and identify specific liaisons responsible for sharing information so that law enforcement can quickly identify people on parole they encounter and divert them to services.
- Pilot a multidisciplinary risk and needs response team to rapidly identify and divert people on supervision who have the greatest needs or who are at the highest risk of failure to necessary resources.
- Work with city and business leaders to identify pathways to employment, opportunities for housing funding and development, and other strategies to promote successful reintegration for people with criminal histories.
Goal: Decrease violent crime, particularly incidences of domestic violence.
In 2018, cases referred to specialized domestic violence officers had increased significantly. But criminal justice stakeholders in Wichita faced various challenges that impacted the system’s ability to hold people who commit domestic violence accountable and identify people at a high risk for committing lethal violence. These challenges included a difference in the way that lethality assessments are used by specialized domestic violence officers versus non-specialized officers, lack of coordination between victim service stakeholders and community supervision officers, and the lack of specialized domestic violence assessment tools for judges.
Recommended Action Steps:
- Require non-specialized officers to refer victims to service programs when responding to domestic violence incidents and use lethality assessments to collect necessary information for specialized officers who handle domestic violence investigations.
- Create a county-level subcommittee to facilitate information sharing between law enforcement, service providers, and supervision officers about people who are at the highest risk for committing domestic violence.
- Provide prosecutors, judges, and supervision officers with specialized risk assessment tools to determine appropriate levels of supervision and domestic violence programming.
Moving forward, Wichita leaders have already identified several first steps to implement these recommendations, including increased domestic violence training for WPD officers, and improving information-sharing between WPD and the courts.
While the recommendations are specifically tailored to the unique needs and local conditions in Wichita and Sedgwick County, other communities facing similar challenges may be able to use some of these strategies to strengthen community supervision and improve collaboration between law enforcement and parole supervision agencies.
This project was supported by Grant No. 2015-ZB-BX-K001 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.
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