Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Kansas Senators Adopt Bill Overhauling Juvenile Justice System

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Kansas Senators Adopt Bill Overhauling Juvenile Justice System

Article excerpt

A near-majority in the Kansas Senate voted Tuesday for legislation overhauling the state's juvenile justice system to reduce incarceration of low-risk offenders and shift millions of dollars into community programs to counter recidivism.

The bill ushered through the process by Sen. Greg Smith, an Overland Park and chairman of the Senate's corrections committee, was praised by Democrats and Republicans as the type of thoughtful, well-vetted legislation worthy of support by Kansas lawmakers.

After nine months of individual and committee work sorting through scholarly research on juvenile justice, including a consultant's report on the Kansas system, Senate Bill 367 was passed to the House on a vote of 38-2.

The level of out-of-home placement of juveniles is expected to drop 60 percent by 2020 and allow for reallocation of an estimated $75 million to juvenile programs, Smith said.

"It's been collaborative effort, a true bipartisan project that allowed for compromise of ideas without compromising principle," he said. "It truly reflects the charge of the working group to promote public safety, hold juvenile offenders accountable, control taxpayer cost and improve outcomes for youth, families and communities."

Under the bill, the length of time a court holds jurisdiction over a juvenile's case could be limited. There would be no maximum for adjudication of serious felonies such as murder, rape and kidnapping. Courts would control a misdemeanor case for 12 months, a low-risk felony case for 15 months and some high-risk felonies for 18 months.

Probation wouldn't exceed the overall case length limits and would reflect outcome of risk and needs assessments of juvenile offenders. Terms of probation would be staggered from six months to 12 months depending on the offense. …

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