With the recent release of the report by Prison Fellowship and Kansas Appleseed on juvenile justice in Kansas, the blog asked Kate Trammell, policy associate and caucus coordinator for Prison Fellowship’s advocacy program, to share her thoughts on the report’s proposals, and the impact they might have on Kansas’ juvenile justice system and beyond.
Q: What is it about the juvenile justice system in Kansas that needs reform?
A: Right now, Kansas has the sixth-highest youth detainment rate in the country, and a three-year re-incarceration rate of youth held in youth prisons of 42 percent. As taxpayers and community members, we should always be watching whether our systems of justice are effective in terms of promoting a balanced budget, strengthening families, and providing punishment that is proportionate to the crime. For example, though youth crime in Kansas has dropped more than 50 percent in the last 10 years, Kansas still incarcerates young people at a higher rate than the national average. Also, most of the youth in residential secure care are not a threat to public safety (classified as low or moderate risk). From this we can gather that there are less costly and more restorative ways to hold low-risk youth accountable in their own communities.
Q: How can the juvenile justice system be made more effective and efficient?
A: In the report, Prison Fellowship and Kansas Appleseed recommend less reliance on out-of-home placement like youth prisons for those who are low to moderate risk, prioritization of family involvement in youth accountability, and a widened spectrum of community supervision options for youth.
Q: How will enacting the reforms proposed in the report impact other states and the federal justice system?
A: In the past several years, states have lead the nation in implementing values-based criminal justice reforms. Federal lawmakers often assess the effectiveness of state programs when determining whether to implement similar policies, and successful implementation of reform in one state can prove to be very inspiring in another state considering reform options.
Generally speaking, the more states address this issue, the more momentum builds for similar positive reforms in other states. This has a direct impact on the taxpayer by reducing spending on incarceration, on community members by making their communities safer, and on families by involving them in the accountability process of youth.
Q: What can individuals do to support juvenile justice reform in Kansas?