Douglas County could lose $59,000, or 17 percent, from its community corrections program.
Douglas County officials are worried that state budget cuts next year could mean less supervision for some convicted criminals released back into the community on parole or probation.
Pat Berry, director of the Douglas County Community Corrections program, said the budget submitted to Gov. Bill Graves in November by the Kansas Department of Corrections would eliminate two of the county's four community corrections supervisor positions, and end a program that funds electronic surveillance of people under home detention.
"We want to make the community and the Legislature aware (of the cuts) and let everyone know about the impacts they would have on local programs," Berry said.
Kansas Corrections Secretary Chuck Simmons confirmed Douglas County stands to lose a substantial amount of its funding next year, but said choices had to be made to meet the governor's goal of cutting state general fund spending by 6 percent next year.
"Hard choices need to be made to meet those budget limits, and we've tried to make those in a reasonable manner," Simmons said.
Under the department's proposed budget, Simmons said, Douglas County would lose about $59,000, or 17 percent, of its community corrections budget.
That includes cutting 6 percent ($18,700) from the county's basic community corrections grant; eliminating the "conditioned violator" grant program that provided another $33,000 to Douglas County for electronic home surveillance; and getting rid of another grant that provided $7,500 to Douglas County for substance abuse programs.
The governor has not yet unveiled his budget proposal, and it is not known whether those cuts will be included in the package he sends to the Kansas Legislature on Jan. 10. The Department of Corrections, like other state agencies, had an opportunity to appeal the cuts, but appeal results won't be public until the Graves' budget is presented to lawmakers.
Berry said if the cuts go through, her office would probably eliminate two supervisor positions, including the one responsible for electronic surveillance monitoring.
The result, she said, would either be to shift cases to remaining officers, resulting in less supervision and increased risks to public safety, or for judges to sentence more offenders to the state's already-crowded prison system.
"Community corrections programs are tailored to meet local needs, and they are cost-effective," Berry said. "Offenders stay in the community, maintain employment, stay with their families, perform community service -- which is a requirement -- and pay restitution to the victims of their crimes. All of those things would not be happening if they were incarcerated."
Community corrections programs are one of the "non-prison sanctions" local courts have for sentencing certain offenders.
People sentenced to probation in a community corrections program are subject to more intensive supervision, including electronic surveillance and random home inspections, than those supervised by the court services office.
Though they are managed locally, community corrections programs are funded through the state Department of Corrections on a formula based on the number of offenders in the program.
According to Simmons, it costs an average of $20,000 to house an inmate in state prison for a year, compared to about $2,700 under community corrections.
-- Peter Hancock's phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is email@example.com.