Kansas Governor Sam Brownback announced last week he will propose an executive reorganization order during the 2013 Kansas Legislative session to merge the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority (JJA) with the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC).
“The post audit report released this summer highlighted how the decades-old approach of a social services focus taken by policy makers and previous administrations failed to provide the safety and security that our juvenile offenders require and deserve,” Gov. Brownback said. “Moving JJA to KDOC will increase the emphasis on safety while continuing to provide programs proven to get our youth back on the right path.”
KDOC Secretary Ray Roberts said the consolidation will provide opportunities to strengthen public safety, build upon successes realized through a minimal administrative consolidation of functions two years ago, and provide for the unique needs of these two populations.
“While there are some distinct differences in program needs and management strategies for juveniles, and we will continue the rehabilitation of the juvenile population, it is imperative that basic safety and security practices are routinely employed in correctional environments,” Roberts said. “For the past few months, through the capable leadership of Acting JJA Commissioner Terri Williams and support from the KDOC, steps have been taken to improve the quality of juvenile corrections. A consolidation will make both agencies stronger and better equipped to provide comprehensive corrections in the State of Kansas.”
Brownback said the ERO will establish a Deputy Secretary of Juvenile Services and Acting JJA Commissioner Terri Williams will serve in that role.
“With a broader organizational base, we can focus on the work necessary to make the Kansas juvenile justice system a nationally-recognized model – one that promotes public safety through sound correctional practices and reduces recidivism through the provision of well researched, evidence-based services. The youth, families, staff, and citizens of the State of Kansas deserve nothing less,” Commissioner Williams said.
There are approximately 1,506 juveniles currently under JJA custody. 328 juvenile offenders are in one of the two JJA facilities, the Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility or the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex in Topeka. State law allows youth from ages 10 to 23 to be in JJA custody.
“The audit clearly shows that for their safety, security, and well-being, juvenile offenders must be served by a professional corrections agency. My administration looks forward to working with the Kansas Legislature on this long term solution to the issues at JJA,” Brownback said.
Once the Governor introduces the ERO to the Kansas Legislature, lawmakers will have 60 calendar days to consider it. If neither legislative chamber rejects the ERO, it will go into effect on July 1, 2013.