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Merger of juvenile, adult correctional systems becomes official

by admin last modified Jul 07, 2015 01:41 PM
A plan to merge the state’s juvenile and adult correctional systems goes into effect today, following the legislature’s approval and months of preparation.

Governor Sam Brownback proposed an executive reorganization order at the beginning of the 2013 Kansas Legislative session to incorporate the Juvenile Justice Authority (JJA) into the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC).

Since its inception as a cabinet-level agency in 1997, JJA has often been scrutinized for lack of supervision, insufficient programing, and mismanagement. The criticism contained in a recent audit prompted Brownback to recommend the management of juvenile correctional services be moved under KDOC.

"Moving JJA to KDOC will increase the emphasis on safety while continuing to provide programs proven to
get our youth back on the right path,” said Brownback of the reorganization order.

Legislators took time during the session to contemplate the order, but their approval of the move was expressed by their allowing it to take effect without a vote. By not rejecting the order within 60 calendar days of its introduction, they allowed the order to take effect today, July 1.

The new division will now be known as “Juvenile Services” within the KDOC, and will contain all of the facilities and programs dedicated to the juvenile correctional population.  The division will be overseen by a Deputy Secretary of Juvenile Services. KDOC veteran Terri Williams took the role of Acting JJA Commissioner in March 2012 and will continue to direct the division as the Deputy Secretary.

“I am proud and appreciative of the hard work of staff during the transition,” said Williams. “Improvements have already been seen as we have shared resources and the expertise of our talented and dedicated juvenile services and KDOC staff members.  These efficiencies will allow for the continuation of evidenced-based programs and quality assurance measures in our facilities and our communities.  Those initiatives, coupled with our improved facility safety and security, will further enhance public safety and rehabilitative outcomes for the youth and families we serve.”

State law allows youth from ages 10 to 23 to be in the state’s custody. There are approximately 1,500 juveniles presently in the system. Juvenile services focuses on prevention, intervention programs, community-based services and the concept that a youth should be placed in a juvenile correctional facility only as a last resort.

There are approximately 325 juvenile offenders placed within the two state juvenile facilities – the Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility and the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex in Topeka. Youth not placed in a juvenile correctional facility are rehabilitated through a network of community-based programs consisting of graduated sanctions, delinquency prevention and community placements.

KDOC Secretary Ray Roberts supported Brownback’s recommendation to merge the programs, believing the consolidation will provide opportunities to strengthen public safety, build upon successes realized through a minimal administrative consolidation of functions two years ago, and provide for the unique needs of the two populations. He assured the legislature that the juvenile offenders will be treated with appropriate care for their age.

"It is imperative that basic safety and security practices are routinely employed in correctional environments while we maintain the distinct differences in program needs and management strategies for juveniles and continue the rehabilitation of the juvenile population," said Secretary Roberts. "A consolidation will make both agencies stronger and better equipped to provide comprehensive corrections in the State of Kansas."

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