By Jake Horowitz
In December, the Kansas Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee released its first annual report evaluating the implementation and impact of bipartisan, comprehensive juvenile justice reforms adopted by the state in 2016. Many of the new policies have already shown signs of success.
The measures were enacted to promote public safety, improve outcomes for youths and families, and save taxpayer dollars. The report highlights a number of positive outcomes occurring so far. For example:
- Between July 2016 and June 2017, the state experienced a 34 percent decrease in the total juvenile out-of-home population, including reductions in placements in detention facilities, group homes, and secure state-run juvenile correctional facilities.
- During the same period, the group home population dropped 58 percent (the largest decline among the out-of-home population).
- The reductions allowed the Kansas Department of Corrections to close the Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility, one of its two juvenile correctional facilities, in March 2017.
- The state has shifted more than $12 million of savings linked to the reforms to evidence-based supervision and services for youths living at home. The statewide expansion of community-based services, which range from cognitive-behavioral therapy to treatment for substance use disorders, has already served 350 youths and families across all 31 judicial districts and is expected to serve 600 additional families during the current fiscal year.
- Finally, the state is granting a total of $5 million this year to counties for service expansion, and three state pilot programs across nine judicial districts are working to reduce youth reoffending by providing mentorship and counseling programs.
By 2022, the reforms are projected to reduce out-of-home youth placements by 60 percent, saving the state a total of $72 million. The law requires that all savings be reinvested in effective alternatives to incarceration, which should further enhance public safety and keep families together when appropriate.