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Archive for Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Prison cutbacks could threaten safety

August 25, 2009

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Kansas University's new chancellor, Bernadette Gray-Little, introduced herself to the House Appropriations Committee on Monday at the Capitol. The chancellor made brief remarks and left as the committee started hearing about upcoming budget problems.

Kansas University's new chancellor, Bernadette Gray-Little, introduced herself to the House Appropriations Committee on Monday at the Capitol. The chancellor made brief remarks and left as the committee started hearing about upcoming budget problems.

State Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, expresses skepticism over a Flint Hills Center on Public Policy report that says the state has nearly $2 billion in unencumbered cash balances. Gov. Mark Parkinson's administration says that just because funds are unencumbered, they are targeted for specific purposes. Ballard is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which was called into session for two days by Republican leaders to work on projected budget problems.

State Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, expresses skepticism over a Flint Hills Center on Public Policy report that says the state has nearly $2 billion in unencumbered cash balances. Gov. Mark Parkinson's administration says that just because funds are unencumbered, they are targeted for specific purposes. Ballard is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which was called into session for two days by Republican leaders to work on projected budget problems.

— The state’s top prison official Monday told lawmakers that budget cuts have already endangered the public, and further cuts could force the early release of inmates.

Kansas Secretary of Corrections Roger Werholtz also told the House Appropriations Committee that the state inmate population of 8,020 was just 103 beds below the system’s capacity.

State budget cuts have forced Corrections to shut down much of its drug and alcohol treatment, sex offender treatment, education and transitional housing programs, in addition to several facilities, Werholtz said.

Over the past few years, those programs have helped Kansas reduce the number of reoffenders, as well as parole and probation revocations.

“I project that all those performance figures will be worse,” Werholtz said. Without these programs, many released inmates will end up homeless and commit new offenses, he said.

Corrections has already sustained cuts of $23.5 million, or about 8 percent of the agency’s budget, during the current budget crisis.

Any further cuts and the agency would have to shut down the Winfield Correctional Facility, cut victims services and further reduce parole operations, Werholtz said.

Prison staffing is already at dangerously low levels at times, he said.

“Our facilities are less safe because we are holding positions open,” he said.

He said lawmakers would face the politically dangerous possibility of having to release inmates early from prison or parole supervision.

House Appropriations Chairman Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, said he doesn’t believe Corrections should be cut any more.

But he and other Republican leaders have vowed not to raise taxes in the face of a projected budget deficit that is estimated to be between $400 million and $500 million.

The Legislature and Gov. Mark Parkinson have already implemented four rounds of budget cuts this year, and agencies are complaining that further cuts would decimate their operations.

Representatives of social services, health and higher education appeared before the Appropriations panel on Monday. School officials were due to give presentations today.

Yoder said additional state budget cuts will be necessary, and that he and other budget writers are trying to find out the impact of previous budget cuts and where future cuts can be made that produce the least amount of harm.

“No one is suggesting a tax increase,” he said.

Earlier Monday, a report that says the state has billions of dollars in “unencumbered funds” that could be given back to taxpayers or used to fill in budget holes was greeted with skepticism by several lawmakers.

But others said the report by the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy was helpful.

The report says there is about $2 billion in unencumbered funds in cash balances that state agencies have essentially stashed away.

But Gov. Mark Parkinson’s administration says that just isn’t the case, and while the funds may be considered unencumbered, they are dedicated for specific purposes throughout the fiscal year.

“It’s more complicated than it might appear at first blush,” Parkinson said. For instance, the unemployment trust fund had several hundred million dollars in it at the start of the fiscal year, but that money has been drawn down to pay unemployment compensation claims, he said.

Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence and a member of the Appropriations Committee, said after the Flint Hills presentation, “I really am skeptical.”

But state Rep. Kasha Kelley, R-Arkansas City, said the report was useful in that it looked at something in a new way.

“Business as usual is not going to get us out of this mess,” she said.

David Trabert, president of the Flint Hills group, also said schools statewide have more than $1 billion in cash balances. But education officials have said that money is needed to make payments on services.

Comments

zettapixel 5 years, 4 months ago

We could set up some tent cities like in Arizona.

number3of5 5 years, 4 months ago

We could go back to the death penalty and eliminate some of them.

avoice 5 years, 4 months ago

We could legalize marijuana. Then "sin" tax it and use the marijuana tax to fund county jails and state prisons.

MyName 5 years, 4 months ago

@be3:

If by "good solution" you mean both immoral and unconstitutional, then yeah, I can agree with you.

@BuenaVista:

Blackmail is supposed to be a profitable enterprise, so how do you explain the fact that they've already had their budgets cut by 8%. Or maybe they're actually doing part of their job which is to speak the truth to people who are trying to make hard decisions.

Of course, they're also making those decisions with one hand tied behind their backs because they have ruled out tax increases, but that's beside the point.

Kat Christian 5 years, 4 months ago

I vote for death penalty for child molestors and murders. They're not human beings anyway so we're not distroying anyone valuable. These monsters are evil beings diguised as human sapians. If we could get rid of these monsters we'd alieviate overcrowding in our prison system and perhaps the other offenders can get the help they need to become productive people in society.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 4 months ago

this is just a fear tactic. give us more money or you won't be safe. we're about to release all sorts of dangerous criminals into your living room!

I think if we'd let some of these gang-bangin' thugs out, they could get back to cleaning up our streets. after all, most gang violence is directed at other gangs. so we have to see a few dead homies on the way to work, I'm ok with that. The average lifespan of a gang member is like 25. if we lock them up at 18, they will long outlive their life expectancy in prison, at $35,000 / year, per criminal. just let them loose, the problem will right itself.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 4 months ago

be3 (Anonymous) says… Just find a large tree with a strong branch and a good length of rope and the problem is solved. This would be a good solution for all of the deadbeat drug users in this town.


just the deadbeat ones, or do you intend on hanging anyone who uses/abuses drugs? After all, there are millions of Americans abusing prescription pills. What about all of us marijuana smokers that hold down good jobs and provide for our families? will we be at the end of a rope as well? but as a clean living individual, I'm sure you never used any kind of drug to feel better. alcohol, cigarettes, pain pills, caffeine? how about while you're up on your high horse, you go ahead and slip that noose around your neck and yell giddy up.

monkeyspunk 5 years, 4 months ago

Death penalty for child molestors and murders would increase the cost to corrections and legal system not decrease it.

The best plan is to legalize marijuana and release inmates convicted of non-violent drug offenses. The money saved in incarceration alone would easily cover the cost of those lost programs.

Of course our leaders are stupid and unable to think critically so this won't happen even though it is the absolutely best solution to this issue.

Netherlands has fewer "pot smokers" per capita than the US.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 4 months ago

but what do you mean by deadbeats? just jobless pot smokers, or do you consider all pot smokers to be deadbeat? and do you think that someone who earns $50k per year should be locked up and not provide for his family, as well as cost the taxpayers another $35k for the rest of his life? ya, that makes sense.

Marijuana isn't the evil that your government has told you that it is. propaganda and lies have distorted millions of minds, and created a stigma against individuals who enjoy a relaxing smoke at the end of the day. I would bet that you would never guess I was a pot smoker if you met me on the street or through business.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 4 months ago

monkey, "Of course our leaders are stupid and unable to think critically so this won't happen even though it is the absolutely best solution to this issue."


I don't think it's because our leaders are stupid. it's more that there is a huge swath of Americans who believe the lies and propaganda that have been perpetuated for years. People like BE3 really believe that marijuana will kill and is a danger to society. So the politicians are very smart because they continue to pander to these people. But as time goes on and the number of people who have used marijuana becomes greater (40% of Americans so far), this little game of lies will crumble. I don't know anyone who has smoked pot, that feels like it is a danger or causes the problems that the gov. states.

Danimal 5 years, 4 months ago

The Governor should pardon some non-violent drug offenders to open up some space. That coupled with a robust new execution program for murderers should even things out.
Or we could just close all of our prisons and give all of the inmates one way bus tickets to California with a mandatory death sentence if they ever return to Kansas.

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