Pew Applauds Kansas Leaders for Comprehensive Juvenile Justice Reform

Pew Applauds Kansas Leaders for Comprehensive Juvenile Justice Reform

WASHINGTON—Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed into law today comprehensive juvenile justice legislation that will increase public safety, improve outcomes for young offenders, protect public safety, and reduce costs for taxpayers. The legislation, Senate Bill 367, is expected to reduce the number of youth sent to out-of-home facilities by more than half and save $72 million over the next five years.

“Senate Bill 367 represents an important step forward for juvenile justice in Kansas,” said Adam Gelb, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ public safety performance project. “By letting facts drive the discussion, Kansas policymakers have crafted a new direction for the system that will maximize the state’s return on investment—for youth, for their families, and for public safety.”

The new law is based on policy recommendations from the Kansas Juvenile Justice Workgroup, a bipartisan, interbranch initiative established by the governor, Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, and legislative leaders. With technical assistance from Pew, the 17-member workgroup analyzed key data from every stage of the juvenile justice system; conducted more than two dozen roundtable discussions with stakeholder groups that included law enforcement, crime victims, and judges; and reviewed research on effective strategies to reduce juvenile delinquency. In November, the workgroup issued a report with its findings and the policy recommendations that formed the basis of SB 367.

The workgroup found that although juvenile crime has declined over the past decade, Kansas’ juvenile justice system was not keeping pace: The decline in the number of youth sent to out-of-home placements (24 percent) was less than half the decline in juvenile arrests (52 percent). Instead of reflecting the drop in crime, the system was cycling youth through more out-of-home placements and holding them longer than it did a decade ago. The workgroup found that a growing proportion of juveniles placed out of home were lower-level offenders, a trend driven in part by a lack of community-based alternatives in most areas of the state.

The new law addresses the findings by:

  • Preventing deeper involvement of lower-level offenders in the juvenile justice system.
  • Protecting public safety and containing costs by focusing system resources on high-risk youth.
  • Sustaining effective practices through continued oversight and reinvestment in a stronger continuum of evidence-based services.
  • Reducing recidivism rates and improving other outcomes.

The legislation also institutes statewide oversight to ensure that the reforms are implemented well and sustained; standardizes data reporting and analysis; and reinvests funds made available through reductions in out-of-home placement into evidence-based programming shown to improve outcomes for youth, families, and communities.

When fully implemented, the reform package is projected to result in a 60 percent reduction in the out-of-home population by fiscal year 2022 when compared with baseline projections, producing approximately $72 million in reinvestment dollars from 2018 to 2022.

Pew’s public safety performance project and its partners have assisted more than two dozen states, including Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, South Dakota, and West Virginia, with similar data-driven analyses and consensus-based policy recommendations.


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