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Kansas Governor Signs Juvenile Justice Overhaul

Stephen Koranda
Kansas Public Radio
Gov. Brownback signs a juvenile justice overhaul bill at a ceremony Monday.

Gov. Sam Brownback has signed into law legislation that overhauls the juvenile justice system in Kansas. The changes will allow more low-risk juvenile offenders to stay out of detention centers and instead take part in community-based rehabilitation programs.

Brownback says this promotes the rehabilitation of youth instead of focusing on incarceration.

“Senate Bill 367 offers practical, sensible reform. This bill is about being smart on crime. It’s about making sure our communities are safe while juveniles are held accountable for their actions,” Brownback said.

The reduced focus on sending juveniles to group homes or correctional facilities can save the state money with the goal of investing in more community-based services. The overhaul was prompted by data showing Kansas has a higher-than-average rate of juvenile incarceration.

“Clearly, what we were doing wasn’t working," says Republican Rep. John Rubin, one of the supporters of the change. "More out-of-home placements getting juveniles deeper into the juvenile justice system was producing adverse results, rather than positive results, for the kids and for public safety."

Republican Sen. Greg Smith, one of the supporters of the plan, says the changes hold juvenile offenders accountable but also offer more options for rehabilitation.

“In the past we warehoused kids. Get them out of sight, out of mind, and then we don’t have to worry about them until they come back and commit the next crime," Smith says. "This looks at the root causes for why those crimes are being committed and not only helps the kids but provides resources for the families and provides resources for the victims of the crimes, so it’s a win for everybody."

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and High Plains Radio covering health, education and politics.