WHY IT MATTERS
The criminal justice and prison systems cost too much, needlessly incarcerate too many people, work against those trying to make a fresh start, and are permeated by racial disparity in both Kansas and Missouri.
Even as the crime rate in recent years has fallen consistently in Kansas, the state’s prison population has more than quadrupled! Just 2,300 were imprisoned in 1978; but we put 10,000 in jail in 2018. That increase translates to a $244 million per year cost that we taxpayers have to fund. When local government spending on correctional facilities is included, the total cost rises by millions more.
Missouri’s incarceration rate is eighth highest in the nation and has the fastest growing female prison population in the United States. We can document that Missouri spends over $725 million each year to keep 50,000 Missourians behind bars, but most important to note: it is a fiscally unsustainable path. Without addressing the underlying issues in the criminal justice system soon, Missouri will have to spend a half-billion dollars just to build two new prisons by 2022.
We can fix these broken systems. But to do that, both Kansas and Missouri need to create smarter justice policies—ones that will strengthen communities, reduce the number of incarcerated people, and reduce costs. With smarter justice policies, taxpayer money now spent on prisons could be invested instead in education, healthcare, and crime prevention.
WE ARE FIGHTING FOR:
Standardized and prioritized diversion. In the effort to fix our broken criminal justice system, local prosecutors already have a powerful tool in their toolbox—diversion. Diversion allows individuals to avoid criminal charges if they follow a prescribed program.
Reduced sentences for non-violent drug possession. Between 1993 and 2009, drug offenses accounted for most of the new admissions into state and federal prisons. Drug offenses are the biggest contributor to Kansas prison admissions, consistently accounting for about 30 percent of admissions.
Improved reentry services for prisoners. Neither Missouri nor Kansas does enough to prepare prisoners for life after they complete their sentences. Once they re-enter the community, they’re at great risk for returning to prison. These folks face nearly 50,000 federal, state and local legal restrictions that make it difficult to reintegrate back into society—beginning with their inability to find employment. Getting a job is the number one predictor for whether a person will likely be able to remain in their community.
Reformed civil asset forfeiture laws. Reformed civil asset forfeiture laws. Both Kansas and Missouri laws violate basic due process rights and threaten the property rights of citizens by allowing law enforcement agencies to seize citizens’ property based solely on a suspicion that it was involved in criminal activity. Kansas ranks among the worst in the nation, scoring a D- on the national report card that grades forfeiture laws. They should be amended to require a conviction on a relevant criminal charge before assets are forfeited.
BILLS WE ARE WATCHING
Click through to read more about bills, their status, full text, sponsors and how specific elected representatives voted. (Best viewed on a larger screen.)
Colors bars to the left of bills indicate IKC support (green) or opposition (red).
We will be ranking more pieces of proposed legislation in the 2020 session. If you'd like to help us sort through the bills introduced related to criminal justice, go to our volunteer form, here.
**Data supplied by Bill Track 50**
IKC often looks to organizations with specific issue knowledge and supports their efforts. This is one of those issues.
The ACLU has launched their Smart Justice program, which is an unprecedented, multiyear effort to reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50% and to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
Because of the ACLU's commitment to criminal justice reform, and the resources they bring to the topic, IKC looks to them directly for information and actions. Learn more about the Smart Justice program.