Topeka State prison and religious leaders Wednesday testified against a proposal that would allow a private prison in the state.
"Making a profit on incarcerating men and women is especially troubling in light of the prevailing characteristics of persons who populate our prisons - those who are poor, illiterate, addicted and mentally ill," said Sister Therese Bangert, speaking on behalf of the Kansas Catholic Conference.
Her comments were made in reaction to House Bill 2029, which would allow the state to enter into a contract for a private prison.
The measure is being considered by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.
Legislators in southeastern Kansas have for years pushed for private prisons, saying they would help the regional economy while providing some breathing room for the state's crowded prison system. They also have claimed that the private prisons could be operated cheaper than building new state prisons.
But Kansas Corrections Secretary Roger Werholtz said private prisons couldn't operate more efficiently or cheaper than an expansion of state capacity.
"I believe the state's correctional interests are best served through maintaining state operation of our corrections capacity," he said.
But he said that if the Legislature authorizes private prisons in Kansas, the Department of Corrections would "make a good-faith effort to see that the policy succeeds."
He said several shortfalls in a private prison bill from last year had been fixed.
Under the bill, approval of a majority of voters in a county would be required before a private prison could be opened there.