Steve Six wanted to change people's lives when he was a district court judge. He became frustrated when he could not reach the repeat offenders entering his courtroom.
Now, as Kansas' attorney general, Six is working with law enforcement to help at-risk offenders. He addressed members of the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police during their fall training conference Wednesday at the Holiday Inn in Lawrence.
"The project today is to work on how we can be smart about working on making sure these people don't repeat and commit offenses and end up in prison again," Six said.
He is working with the Kansas Re-entry Policy Council to find ways to make communities safer and help offenders re-integrate into society.
Six said law enforcement and corrections officers must work with community organizations to change offenders' behavior to reduce prison return rates. Officers should work with offenders during their incarceration, not just before they are released, he said. This includes finding housing, employment and working on preventing substance abuse.
Topeka Police Chief Ron Miller said his department is "right in line" with the council's efforts to help offenders being released form prison.
"They have no money, a criminal record, no education, they have no skills, no support system and yet they're returning to our communities and we expect them to be successful," he said.
Topeka law enforcement uses data to identify those offenders who are potential repeaters.
"We're trying to reach out to those offenders that aren't yet established as career criminals that we might be able to turn around and get them back as tax-paying members of society, and hopefully save us resources," Miller said.
The council is also working to reduce the financial strain on the prison system and to allocate funds more effectively, Six said.
"It costs a lot of money to lock people up," he said. "(But) at the same time, the highest goal is community safety."