Report: Kansas juvenile justice funds could run out by 2024
A Kansas fund to help keep young people out of jail could be cash-strapped by 2024 if spending and planned funding stay the same, according to the non-partisan Legislative Research Department.
The Evidence-Based Programs Fund was born out of a 2016 law aimed at shifting the focus of juvenile justice from incarceration to rehabilitation. The effort had some success, with the population of the Kansas juvenile correctional complex dropping 40% in five years.
With annual funding and savings through reduced incarceration costs, the fund has built up a reserve of $ 42 million by this year, the Kansas City Star reported.
Faced with the potential for budget deficits linked to COVID-19, Governor Laura Kelly this year asked the Legislature to transfer the entire $ 42 million to other state needs.
Lawmakers approved the withdrawal of $ 21 million from the account, despite a projected surplus of $ 1 billion in the state budget approved last week.
Sam Coleman, a spokesperson for Kelly, said last week that with annual appropriations the prison department is unlikely to deplete the fund.
“This administration remains committed to working with the Legislative Assembly, local governments and stakeholders to improve our services for youth involved in justice. At current expense rates, we expect the balance in this fund to continue to grow in the near term, ”said Coleman.
Depleting the fund could damage existing programs and delay new projects, advocates say.
“It’s going to be a bigger problem next year,” said Rep. Russ Jennings, Republican for Lakin and chair of the Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee. “Juvenile justice reform falls flat if it does not have the funds to deliver the necessary programs.”
Currently approved budgets allocate $ 14.3 million to the fund in 2021 and $ 12.5 million in 2022. Savings from reduced correctional costs were only $ 54,000 in 2021 – a fraction of the millions transferred to them. previous years because less dollars were allocated to the incarceration of minors.
The Ministry of Corrections has slowly increased the fund’s spending from $ 9.6 million in 2020 to $ 14.3 million in 2021 and $ 21.6 million in 2022.
The money goes to several initiatives, ranging from family engagement projects to mental health programs and grants to organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of Topeka.
Jennings credits these programs with a decrease in the number of juveniles incarcerated at the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex – from 245 in 2016 to 147 in 2020.
“I’m afraid (the loss of funding) will only turn things in the opposite direction,” Jennings said. “We will have more children in the system, deeper in the system.”
Mike Fonkert, campaign manager at Kansas Appleseed, said he didn’t think Corrections would spend enough to use up all funds by 2024. But he said cutting half of the reserves this year created a frustrating obstacle for new projects.
The Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee, which recommends spending, has considered, among other things, building juvenile crisis intervention centers, expanding family preservation services and addiction counseling. But no final decision or expense was made and none of the projects were launched.
Access to the full $ 42 million fund, Fonkert said, would have “softened the blow” to the state budget if the Corrections Department approved the plans. He said the bureaucratic process gets in the way of programs.
“What seems to be slowing things down is the lack of commitment on the part of the Legislative Assembly and agency representatives to making the channeling of this money a priority for the communities,” he said. declared.