Justice Reinvestment in Kansas

In 2020, the CSG Justice Center embarked on a Justice Reinvestment approach in Kansas to help state leaders identify and address the most pressing criminal justice system challenges.

Kansas, like many states, is facing a dire budget crisis amid the need for continued criminal justice system improvements. Before March 2020, Kansas prisons were operating at 100 percent of capacity, and the prison population was projected to increase 14 percent by fiscal year (FY) 2029 at an estimated cost to the state of $209 million. By the end of July, the population in Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) facilities fell to 82 percent of capacity due to a dramatic reduction in admissions. But this decrease will only be temporary without intervention.

In 2019, the Kansas legislature established the Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission. In January 2020, Kansas leaders took additional action to support the Commission by requesting support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and The Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew) to utilize a Justice Reinvestment approach to address system challenges. BJA and Pew approved Kansas state leaders’ request and asked The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center to partner with state leaders to collect and analyze state data and to assist in developing appropriate policy recommendations

The Commission voted on recommendations in late November 2020, all but one of which was approved unanimously. The recommendations will be provided to state leaders for consideration in early 2021. The possibility of additional assistance from CSG Justice Center staff during 2021 will be explored if the Commission receives an extension to continue working.

Previously, from 2012 to 2013, the CSG Justice Center worked with Kansas state leaders to develop data-driven policy options designed to reduce corrections spending and increase public safety. Justice Reinvestment legislation (House Bill 2170) was enacted in 2013. Among other things, the law

  • Requires supervision agencies to respond to minor probation violations with swift, certain, and cost-effective sanctions;
  • Imposes progressive sanctions for repeat violations; and
  • Focuses supervision resources on higher-risk people.
When I took over as Governor, our corrections system was in dire straits. Overpopulation and understaffing led to dangerous conditions in our prisons. It costs Kansas taxpayers nearly $30,000 annually to keep each person incarcerated in Kansas. Safely reducing that price tag gives us the chance to invest in substance use programs and mental health services that help stop the cycle of reoffending. We must re-focus on protecting public safety and rehabilitating [people] so that they can return to society with the skills they need to hold a job, find stable housing, and succeed. That’s how the system can work for both the people it’s responsible for rehabilitating and for all the people of this great state, because it will make us all safer in the end.
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly