Archive for Tuesday, October 4, 1994

STATEHOUSE CANDIDATES DISAGREE ON PRISONS

October 4, 1994

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Rep. Forrest Swall, D-Lawrence, feels like locking up state legislators responsible for laws that prompted a proposal to spend $25 million on prison expansion.

The Department of Corrections will ask the 1995 Legislature for the money to add 256 maximum-security cells at El Dorado and a 90-bed unit in Larned to be operated by the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

Bill Miskell, corrections department spokesman, said laws passed this year mandated longer prison sentences for some inmates and detention by SRS of convicts judged to be sexual predators.

Swall criticized legislators who voted for the get-tough-on-crime bills but refused to raise taxes to pay for resulting expansion of inmate populations. Some thought should have been given to raising taxes, he said.

The Legislature will likely put the squeeze on existing state agencies to make up the shortfall in 1995, he said.

"It will take money from public education and higher education," Swall said. "This is a piece of state government that, in my judgment, is totally out of control."

Tom Sloan, the Republican nominee for Swall's seat in the Legislature, said growth in state revenues might be able to pay for prison construction.

"That's a tricky one. Not having access to the state budget in detail, I'm not sure what funds might be available," said Sloan, of rural Lawrence.

"The first consideration is keeping these sexual predators off the streets. If that means construction of an additional correctional facility, then I support it."

Miskell said the Legislature was responsible for setting spending priorities, not the corrections department.

Swall, assistant professor of social welfare at Kansas University, said forcing inmates to linger longer had little benefit.

"I was opposed to the laws because there is no evidence they will reduce crime or benefit communities," he said.

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