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Prison chief says 10 percent budget cut would hurt public safety

A 10 percent budget cut to the state prison system, which is already overcrowded and seeing an increase in gang violence, would be a threat to public safety, Kansas Secretary of Corrections Ray Roberts said today.

"We could not take a 10 percent cut without it having real serious impacts on public safety," Roberts told a legislative committee.

Roberts said he complied with a directive from Gov. Sam Brownback's budget office to submit a spending proposal for the next fiscal year that includes a 10 percent budget cut.

Brownback's Budget Director Steve Anderson said he issued the directive to state agencies to provide a contingency plan for any unforeseen financial emergency in the future.

Roberts noted that Brownback has indicated in public statements that he wants to protect education, Medicaid and public safety funding.

Roberts said if the prison system had to cut 10 percent, the funding would be pulled from parole and community corrections programs.

"We can't take cuts in our facilities in terms of staff," he said.

The state prison system houses 9,540 inmates, which is 264 over capacity.

Roberts said about 10 percent of inmates belong to gangs, adding that there has been an increase of violence, especially among Hispanic gangs.

"The sky's not falling," he said, but added, "One show of disrespect in the yard and you can have a gang situation just like that."

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