The good news that the prison rate in Kansas is far lower than the national average is tempered by the fact that the number of people in Kansas prisons is continuing to grow.
A report released Tuesday by the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicated that the prison population in Kansas rose from 8,534 at the end of 2008 to 8,641 by the end of 2009. Since 2000, the report said, the number of people in Kansas prisons has risen by 3.5 percent. That seems pretty good compared to a national growth rate of 15 percent, but it’s still a costly increase for the state.
Unfortunately, the upward trend is continuing. Reports on the Kansas Department of Corrections website indicate that at the end of November 2010, the state’s total prison population stood at 8,966.
Commenting on the national report, the communications director for KDOC noted that the department had been focusing on controlling prison populations by reducing the number of parolees who return to prison. Without those efforts, he said, “the numbers would’ve been much higher.”
Indeed, the efforts instituted under Corrections Secretary Roger Werholtz to reduce parolees’ return to prison were highly successful and drew national attention. Unfortunately, funding for almost all of those programs has been eliminated by recent budget cuts.
Werholtz was one of several appointed officials who left office earlier this month in preparation for the transition to a new administration. Gov.-elect Sam Brownback has not yet named his secretary of corrections, but we hope Werholtz’s successor will be able to renew some of the state’s successful efforts to reduce prison populations and perhaps stave off the state’s need to consider building expensive new prison facilities.