So I have a new piece up at TAP this week looking at Kansas’ corrections policy. One of the more interesting things about Kansas is that the secretary of corrections there, Roger Werholz, managed to get political support for changing corrections policy to focus more on keeping people out of prison rather than just keeping people in.  Both Republican Senator Sam Brownback and then Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius expressed support for this approach, neutralizing the potential political fallout from looking “soft on crime.” And it looks like it may have worked:


Werholz’s approach has paid dividends. In 2006, the Justice Center, a think tank focused on correctional and criminal-justice issues found that probation and parole violations accounted for 65 percent of prison admissions in Kansas. In the past three years, Kansas has reduced its parole revocation rate by 48 percent. Kansas went from having around 700 parole absconders a month to less than 200.

“I’d describe it as more a coach motivator kind of relationship, Werholz says. “Parole officers may in the end have to use their enforcement powers. But that’s not the first option that we go to [now].”

The Justice Center concluded that by reforming its parole system, restoring earned time credits for nonviolent offenders with good behavior, instituting a 60-day credit program for inmates who complete educational, vocational, and substance-treatment programs, Kansas was projected to save $80 million in state spending over the next five years.

One of the big motivators behind the push for these reforms on the national level is a concern about the cost of maintaining such a large prison population, rather than a sort of newfound concern for people who are convicted of crimes. It’s more about money than it is about people. That will probably cause problems later on, but this is certainly an improvement.

Just imagine: If this can happen in Kansas…

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