No More Room in Kansas Prisons, Now What?

Kansas has a problem. It's running out of prison beds to house male inmates:

No more. Kansas is officially out of beds for male prisoners, with a population last week of 8,411 — above the system’s capacity of 8,259. In 10 years, the state is projected to be nearly 2,000 beds short.

So Kansas corrections leaders have started talking seriously about two options: Either find millions of dollars to house more prisoners — at a time when the state is struggling to pay for schools and social services — or start letting them go.

One possibility: Follow the lead of Mississippi and grant earlier parole to non-violent offenders. Mississippi now offers parole after serving 25% of a non-violent sentence. This option might have public support:

In a project poll, 91 percent agreed with this statement: “It does not matter whether a nonviolent offender is in prison for 21 or 24 or 27 months. What really matters is the system does a better job of making sure that when an offender does get out, he is less likely to commit another crime.”

Missouri also has advocated less prison time. The Chair of the Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission notes:

“People who go to prison learn things in prison,” he said. “It’s time to talk rationally about how much punishment we can afford.”


The answer should be apparent: We need to run from the "tough on crime" policies of the 80's and 90's. It's time for greater emphasis on alternative sentences, an end to mandatory minimums and increased good time. There should be more spent on prisoner re-entry programs and prevention and less on prisons.

The Justice Department last week announced grants of $110 million for prisoner re-entry programs and the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. It is also launching Project Reentry, a program ”to strengthen our recidivism and reentry work.” Here's the DOJ page with details of all the grants awarded.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Prisons (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by MO Blue on Tue Oct 12, 2010 at 08:15:02 AM EST
    One of the few growth industries left in the U.S.

    Not a good indication for the future.

    Exceptionally high % for marijuana (none / 0) (#1)
    by Ben Masel on Mon Oct 11, 2010 at 10:14:16 PM EST
    Not so much that the laws are stricter, but the Highway Patrol catches a lot of carloads on the interstate, due to the geography and targeted federal grants.

    Correction. Exceptionally harsh. (none / 0) (#2)
    by Ben Masel on Mon Oct 11, 2010 at 10:23:27 PM EST
    Per NORML

    Possession of any amount of marijuana for personal use is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. For a second conviction the penalty increases to 10 - 42 months in jail and a fine of up to $100,000.

    Possession with intent to sell or actual sale is punishable by 14 -51 months in jail and a fine of up to $300,000. Probation is possible for sentences of less than 32 months. Sale or possession with intent within 1,000 feet of a school is punishable by 46 - 83 months in prison and a fine of up to $300,000.

    Manufacture of a controlled substance [growing it] is punishable by 138 - 204 months in prison.

    Possession of paraphernalia for personal us is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Possession of paraphernalia that would be used for planting or growing more than five marijuana plants is punishable by 10 - 42 months in jail and a fine of up to $100,000.

    It is time for better solutions (none / 0) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Oct 12, 2010 at 02:48:24 AM EST
    I'm sick to death of a culture and society that deals with all of its problems through incarceration (and mostly because there was big money in privatized incarceration).  The economic downturn and the loss of loose credit messes up a lot of things, but there will perhaps be one good thing realized from it.....we don't have fortunes to spend on locking everyone up.

    Violent offenders are one thing, and we will take care of our needs first so they won't ever be running amok.  In my opinion though we have allowed law enforcement in this country to literally terrorize the populace in many respects and I'm tired of it.

    My money is on Kansas... (none / 0) (#5)
    by kdog on Tue Oct 12, 2010 at 10:33:11 AM EST
    finding the millions more in funding for the tyranny sector, likely at the expense of social services.  

    We're still a ways off from a criminal justice evolutionary leap, and still not broke enough to bring about meaningful change for economic reasons.

    You can give odds (none / 0) (#6)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Oct 12, 2010 at 11:28:51 AM EST
    on them finding the money.

    You know, the citizens are way ahead of the politicians on drug use.

    Maybe we need a few Tea Party Libertarians to get elected!


    Maybe we do... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Tue Oct 12, 2010 at 11:44:18 AM EST
    social libertarians opposite to that piker Rand Paul anyway...who turned tried and true bland Repub conservative drug war lover immediately upon winning the Brand R nom.

    One thing's for sure (none / 0) (#8)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Oct 12, 2010 at 12:11:23 PM EST
    What we're doing isn't working.

    Ain't that the truth... (none / 0) (#9)
    by kdog on Tue Oct 12, 2010 at 12:38:06 PM EST
    with drugs, criminal justice, and elections...it's broke and not enough desire to fix it.

    "non-violent" (none / 0) (#10)
    by diogenes on Tue Oct 12, 2010 at 06:26:32 PM EST
    If you mean someone who was arrested for a nonviolent crime and does not have a history of violent crimes, it's fine to release them early.
    If you mean someone who was arrested for a violent crime, pled down to a non-violent one because prosecution knew that the criminal would get years of prison anyway, and is now going to be released, then not so good.
    Is there a site which prints the rap sheets of all the Kansas inmates who are currently serving state prison time for nonviolent offenses?