Topeka — Senators approved a bill Thursday to permit construction of private prisons, a move Attorney General Phill Kline said would keep Kansas safe.
The 26-13 vote sent the measure to the House.
A task force appointed by Kline to study crime and sentencing laws had endorsed private prisons.
"This is an important acknowledgment by the Senate that we need additional prison space to keep violent criminals off of our streets," Kline said in a statement.
Under the bill, private prisons would be regulated and licensed by the Department of Corrections. The state would contract to place inmates in such private prisons for no more than 90 percent of the cost to house inmates in state operated facilities.
Kansas' prisons were at 99.3 percent of capacity at the end of February, with 9,182 inmates held in space designed for 9,244, according to the Department of Corrections. Kansas has also contracted with Texas to house 96 prisoners.
In November, the Joint Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice endorsed a proposal to add space for up to 256 inmates at the El Dorado Correctional Facility, an expansion that would cost more than $7 million.
The Senate's bill would require voters in a county where a private prison is proposed to approve its construction. Currently, residents in Yates Center have expressed interest in attracting a prison as economic development.
The bill requires the secretary of corrections to first seek space in county jails before contracting with the private prisons.
Private prisons is Substitute for SB 275.
On the Net:
Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org
Department of Corrections: http://www.ink.org/public/kdoc