To the editor:
Last Tuesday, the Journal-World ran a story about Kansas Department of Corrections Secretary Ray Roberts’ testimony to a legislative committee. As the headline summarized, “Kansas prison system overcrowded and understaffed.” The story reported cuts made to DOC staff, programs to reduce recidivism and educational opportunities (like GEDs) for inmates. “Meanwhile the Legislature continues to approve bills that increase prison sentences, which leads to a ‘stacking effect’ in the system.” The DOC is considering various options, “including releasing inmates early who are at a low risk of reoffending, and keeping them under house arrest and monitoring them by electronic means.”
Sunday’s paper had a story about a Kansas man who cut an electronic monitoring device off his ankle while on parole. He pled to tampering with an electronic monitoring device and was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison. What the story does not explain is the severity level (and consequently the length of sentence) for tampering is greater than the sentence for the low-level drug crime for which he was on parole. (My professional knowledge and a quick Internet search reveal this.) Furthermore, the law requires his new tampering sentence and the time remaining on his drug sentence to run consecutively. The average cost of DOC incarceration is $25,000 per year.
When our legislators face the prison overcapacity issue next session, they need to take a careful look at sentences and be smart on crime. In trying to remedy one crisis, legislators need to ensure they do not create others.