Correction cuts have compromised public safety

A new risk-assessment tool may help Sedgwick County judges better determine whether an offender is likely to succeed at a community correction facility or should be sentenced to prison. But another key to reducing Sedgwick County’s probation-failure rate, which is significantly higher than the state average, is to make sure community correction programs are adequately funded. Pound-foolish budget cuts have reduced by half the number of beds at the county’s adult residential center, which means more higher-risk offenders are living in the community with less structure and supervision. That’s a recipe for recidivism. Gov. Sam Brownback recently signed a bill aimed at reducing the need for prison beds, which is projected to save the state $53million in the next five years. About $5million of those savings are supposed to be reinvested in community-based programs. Those programs need better support. As Mark Masterson, director of the county’s department of corrections, acknowledged: “To say that services have not been compromised – the truth is they have.”