Kansas Reduces Youth Confinement by 63% While Reinvesting $30 million in Evidence Based Programs

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Kansas Reduces Youth Confinement by 63 % While Reinvesting $30 million in Evidence Based Programs

A new report shows that data-driven legislative reforms in Kansas have had more significant outcomes than the state anticipated.

“The reductions in residential placement have already surpassed those projected when the legislation was enacted. The reforms are well on their way to an expected $72 million in total for reinvestment by 2020,” the Pew Charitable Trusts stated in a recent article.  

The Kansas Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee reports that since implementing S.B. 367 in 2016, the state has seen a 63 percent reduction in youth confinement, and has shifted $30 million in funding to support evidence-based programs to help young people remain successfully at home. The legislation focused on three key goals: improving public safety while holding youth accountable, controlling taxpayer costs, and improving outcomes. It was based on recommendations from the Kansas Juvenile Justice Workgroup, and supported through technical assistance from the Pew Charitable Trusts and its partner the Crime and Justice Institute at Community Resources for Justice.

Now, two years into implementation of S.B. 367, Kansas has seen significant opportunities to refocus state correctional funds through the closing of one of its youth prisons, and by ending its reliance on Youth Residential Centers (YRCIIs). Prior to 2016, large numbers of young people were being sent to YRCIIs for low level behaviors. Data showed that these group homes were not helping to improve outcomes for youth, however. Of the young people who were placed there, 54 percent were not successfully discharged, either running away from placement, being charged with a new crime, or not successfully completing the program’s requirements.

The legislation enabled the creation of new programs to help keep young people at home and reduce reliance on YRCIIs. Funding that previously went to the group homes was reinvested in community-based alternatives such as Functional Family Therapy and regional and collaborative grants that address the needs of communities across Kansas. These programs have shown a much higher success rate. Among youth who were referred to community-based programs 63 to 88 percent of youth successfully completed them, depending on the program.

Immediate intervention programs have also been created in 99 of the state’s 105 counties. These programs enable young people to be diverted instead of having formal charges brought against them in the juvenile justice system. Among the counties that reported data for 2018, 89 percent of young people had successfully completed their diversion programs.

Meanwhile, community safety continues to improve. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of youths arrested in Kansas dropped from 10,064 to 7,169, a drop of nearly 29 percent. This shift, reported the Pew Charitable Trusts, shows that “juvenile justice reform and public safety improvements can proceed in tandem.” The Oversight Committee echoed similar sentiments, stating in its report that “[t]he state is accomplishing this while saving money and resources, but more importantly, communities will be safer both immediately and in the long-term due to the systemic changes.”

The focus now shifts to making sure that these changes are sustainable.

“Implementation is a marathon, not a sprint. The key to success is ensuring that progress continues for years to come,” the Oversight Committee reported, adding that “Now, at the end of the second year of reform, all three branches of government must continue the implementation process to guarantee continued success.”

To read Pew’s full article click here. Pew will discuss legislative improvements it helped support in Utah on June 21st as part of CJJ’s Annual Conference.