Data: Many drop out of Kansas domestic violence programs

photo by: Associated Press

This Feb. 2, 2017, file photo, shows the Kansas Department of Corrections logo on the exterior of the Lansing Correctional Center in Lansing. (Mark Rountree/The Leavenworth Times via AP, File)

TOPEKA — Roughly half of the participants in Kansas’ certified intervention programs designed to break cycles of domestic violence dropped out last year, according to the state attorney general’s office.

The office found that 2,404 people participated in domestic violence intervention programs run by nonprofits or the Kansas Department of Corrections last year. But only 1,134 individuals completed the programs, KCUR-FM reported.

The Corrections Department’s program had 487 participants last year, and only 20 inmates completed that program, while 47 finished on parole.

Steve Halley, director of Family Peace Initiative, said about 80% of the participants in the nonprofit’s Shawnee County intervention program are mandated to attend by a court.

“People come here afraid. They don’t want to be here,” Halley said. “They don’t want to be vulnerable. And changing and ending cruelty is a very vulnerable process.”

Roughly 22% of those who completed the program committed domestic violence again, according to the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office. About 44% of those who left the program early committed another act of domestic violence, the office found.

Halley’s program requires at least 25 weekly sessions, in which participants learn about trauma, gender roles and personal responsibility. Each session costs $35, though the program offers a sliding scale for people who are unemployed.

Halley said the program’s costs and time requirement can also be a burden for participants.

“By far we’re serving, basically, the poor,” he said. “Their life is so chaotic that to be able to make it, to attend a class once a week for six months, is a huge request.”

The intervention program run by the state’s Department of Corrections doesn’t have any fees. It’s offered to people on parole as well as those held at the Lansing Correctional Facility in northeastern Kansas.

“Parole offenders really struggled with paying those fees because of the jobs they were able to get and all the other fees they had to pay for,” said Danielle Thompson, the program’s supervisor.

Thompson blamed the program’s low completion rates in part on its waiting list. Some people may not be accepted into the program until several months into their parole term, and it can take eight to 10 weeks for participants to build trust, learn empathy and begin applying new relationship skills.

The state won’t accept anyone with less than five months left on their parole into the program. Before that point, participants can be defensive, hostile and emotionally vulnerable, which Thompson said can increase the risk of further violence.

Thompson said the state could increase the program’s capacity with more staff, but it’s often difficult to find applicants with the skills and willingness to work in the field.

“We serve the highest risk people,” she said. “It takes a certain set of skills to be able to do this work.”


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