- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A new report says Kansas’ juvenile justice system functions inadequately due to poor use of mental health and substance evaluations, dependency on long periods of incarceration, inappropriate assignments of youths to detention facilities and other issues.

The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/1MaNxAH ) reports that the evaluation indicates these and other factors contributed to the high rate of criminal relapse in Kansas. The results of the study, conducted by the nonpartisan Council of State Governments, were discussed with House and Senate corrections committee members at a Wednesday hearing.

“Recidivism rates are higher than we’d like to see,” said Josh Weber, a program director with the organization’s Justice Center “It’s not a good use of resources.”

The reviewers recommended Kansas adopt clear regulations for matching youths with the appropriate level of supervision, alter block granting to mandate private contractors deliver quality programs and vastly expand data collection and analysis.

Terri Williams, who is the deputy secretary for juvenile services at the state Department of Corrections, said that the agency welcomes the Council of State Governments’ expertise.

“We are supportive of their recommendations,” she said. “We’re committed to being data-driven.”

House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee chair John Rubin, a Republican from Shawnee, said the findings could lead to a comprehensive reform bill to be considered in 2016.

“You’ve given us a lot to ponder,” said Rep. John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican and chairman of the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee. “I dare say this is somewhat of a wake-up call for us.”

Robin Olsen, a manager with Pew Charitable Trusts’ public safety project, told committee members that the nation has seen declining rates for juvenile violent crime and the number of youth being sent to state-funded facilities. Olsen said Kansas is making progress, but at a much slower pace.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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