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Crime and Courts

Bipartisan Panel Reviewing Kansas’ Juvenile Justice System

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A bipartisan panel is doing a top-to-bottom review of the juvenile justice system in Kansas.

The group is evaluating policies and practices to help develop reforms aimed at improving public safety and outcomes for young people in the system.

The “Juvenile Justice Workgroup," as it's called, launched in June after a corrections legislative committee raised concerns about the effectiveness of the current juvenile system. The group is made up of representatives from all branches of state government as well as law enforcement.

State Corrections Department spokesman Adam Pfannenstiel says juveniles might be best served in a community-based program with family support.

"It is a very thorough process and we are looking at best practices nationwide," Pfannenstiel says. "What does the research say and how can we implement that in Kansas if we are not already? And if we are, how can we improve upon that?"

He says results are expected in November. The group’s recommendations will be used as the foundation for comprehensive reforms and administrative changes during the 2016 legislative session.

Pfannenstiel says although juvenile commitment rates have declined in Kansas, the drop has not kept pace with national trends. The most recent national statistics show that while the average commitment rate across the country declined 48 percent from 1997 to 2011, Kansas experienced a reduction of 38 percent over the same time period.

The Workgroup is co-chaired by Rep. John Rubin and Sen. Greg Smith, chairs of the House and Senate Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committees. It also includes 15 additional members:

  • Rep. Gail Finney, District 84
  • Sen. Pat Pettey, District 6
  • Judge Thomas Foster, 10th Judicial District
  • Judge Mary Thrower, 28th Judicial District
  • Judge Delia M. York, 29th Judicial District
  • Mark Gleeson, Office of Judicial Administration
  • Stephanie Springer, 27th Judicial District Chief Court Services Officer
  • Ray Roberts, Secretary, Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC)
  • Terri Williams, Deputy Secretary of Juvenile Services, KDOC
  • Randy Bowman, Director of Community Based Services, KDOC
  • Melody Pappan, Cowley County Youth Services Administrator
  • Jaime Rogers, Deputy Secretary, Kansas Department for Children and Families
  • Trent Wetta, Kansas Legal Services
  • Karen Griffiths, Assistant County Attorney, Norton County
  • Ed Klumpp, Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police

The state will receive technical assistance from the Pew Charitable Trusts throughout the Workgroup process and the 2016 legislative session.

Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar.

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