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Opinion

Opinion

Larned funding defended

April 19, 2008

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I am writing in response to the March 26 editorial "Wrong Reasoning," regarding the sexual predator treatment program at Larned State Hospital. As a former state legislator I proudly served House District 114, which includes Larned, for 14 years.

When this program was established, both Congressman Jerry Moran (who was a state senator at the time) and I were highly supportive. The U.S. Supreme Court had recently determined that sexual predators could be incarcerated after serving their criminal sentence, but only if they receive proper treatment. In Kansas, Larned State Hospital is the best and most logical choice for this type of treatment.

Rep. Dennis McKinney and Rep. Eber Phelps support the Larned sexual predator unit for several important reasons, only one of which was discussed in your editorial. Both legislators were right to defend Kansans who earn their living as employees of Larned. More importantly, however, McKinney and Phelps have both always been loyal advocates of the program's core purposes: public safety and mental health. The most dangerous sexual predators are rarely capable of ever normally functioning in society. They need treatment and supervision long after their criminal sentences end. Lawmakers must do all they can to keep those predators off the streets and in controlled environments, which is why McKinney and Phelps fought to protect the Larned program.

It is expensive to meet federal requirements associated with housing sexual predators. Unfortunately, few alternatives exist aside from releasing them into the community. The passage of Jessica's Law in 2006 significantly strengthened sentencing guidelines for dangerous sexual predators, but Larned's program remains a necessary investment.

I have never felt disserved to see my tax dollars spent protecting my family. I am confident Kansans will agree that some things are worth the cost. Safety, mental health and jobs are important to all of us, and we elect our leaders to protect those values. That was the reasoning of Rep. Phelps and Rep. McKinney when they recently spoke on Larned's behalf. In my mind, there is nothing wrong with that reasoning at all. In fact, it is what we should expect from our representatives in the Capitol.

- Mel Minor, Stafford, is a former member of the Kansas House from Stafford.

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