Budget cuts to the Kansas Department of Corrections have made the state less safe and have interfered with the rehabilitation of offenders, officials said Thursday.
“We’re not as safe as we were,” Corrections Secretary Roger Werholtz told an oversight committee.
Werholtz and his staff outlined the impact of approximately $23.5 million in cuts approved by state elected officials in the face of shrinking revenues.
The cuts, which have reduced the agency’s budget by about 8 percent, have resulted in the loss of 300 positions and decimated a number of programs aimed at preventing inmates from re-offending once they leave prison.
Corrections eliminated 220 of 284 slots for substance abuse treatment and 100 of 180 slots for sex offender treatment.
A program designed to help released inmates who had severe mental health problems find transitional housing was eliminated along with the 30 staff members who ran the operation.
Several academic and vocational education programs were eliminated, and those staffs were reduced to part-time employees. Several correctional facilities have also been shut down.
“These are more than just numbers. This is going to have an impact on the safety of our communities,” state Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, said.
Werholtz agreed, but said the actions were taken to keep intact the basic operations of the system, which holds nearly 8,600 inmates.
In recent years, Kansas has been recognized nationally for intervention efforts to reduce the number of parolees who commit new crimes. But Werholtz predicted there will be no further improvement in that area this year.
“In a nutshell, a lot of resources that were available are no longer there for our parole staff or community corrections,” he said.