- Associated Press - Sunday, September 21, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Shawnee County has started feeding its juvenile inmates more after finding that behavior improves when portion sizes increase.

As a test, the Shawnee County Juvenile Detention Center began in July to double the size of the meals it serves to the 10- to 17-year-olds incarcerated there. The experiment also involved replacing the sugary snack that had been provided each evening with fresh fruit, The Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/1usEql2) reported.

“We wanted to see if that would make a difference,” said county corrections department spokesman Maj. Tim Phelps, adding that staff members saw a noticeable improvement in the behavior and educational program performance of youths.

Phelps said the moves are among steps the corrections department is implementing to try to “take some of the bite” out of confinement through its involvement in a program targeted at reducing the negative effects of detention on youths and helping them avoid becoming hardened criminals.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private charitable organization that is behind the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, accepted the state of Kansas as program site in 2011. Shawnee County, which is among five Kansas counties currently taking part, has adopted strategies that include replacing jumpsuits with a less “institutional-looking” uniform that includes slacks-like pants and a polo-type shirt.

Phelps said that since Shawnee County began putting the strategies in place, the number of juveniles it has held at any given time has fallen from the 50s or 60s to now generally in the mid-30s.

A state grant is covering the $3,000 cost of providing more food in August and September. Corrections officials say they’ll ask county commissioners next month to continue the arrangement for a full year, with a grant available to cover the $16,000 cost.

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


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