Proponent Testimony for HB 2515 – Relief from KORA requirements
Aileen Berquist, Community Engagement Manager,
American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas House
Corrections and Juvenile Justice
Thursday, February 3 at 1:30 PM – 546 S
Committee Chairs and Members of the Committee,
Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony today. My name is Aileen Berquist. I am the Community Engagement Manager and lobbyist for the ACLU of Kansas. We are a nonpartisan, non-profit organization that works to preserve and strengthen the civil rights and liberties of every person in our state.
Imagine someone you know is arrested for possession of methamphetamine with the intent to sell. They are convicted and sent to prison. Following release and post-release supervision, they are ready to put their mistakes behind them and make different choices. Instead, they find themselves listed on the online Kansas public offender registry.
Now, they must regularly register with their local sheriff’s office and pay a fee. Every major life decision, like buying a car, moving, starting a new job, or enrolling in school, may require additional steps to make sure their registration is accurate. If they are visiting family or friends in another part of the state and will be away from home for more than three nights, they must register in that county. Failure to comply with any additional registration or check-in can result in additional law enforcement engagement. Even registering one day late because an office was closed can have serious consequences.
And those are just the logistical harms created by Kansas’ current offender registration laws. If you were to look someone up in the database, you would find not only their name and photo, but their current address, related addresses, vehicle information—including their license plate number—and personally identifying information like birthmarks and tattoos. This is publicly available information—allowing anyone around the world access to their personal information. This is an enormous violation of privacy for someone who has served their time and poses no additional threat to their community.
Kansas has some of the most restrictive offender registries in the country: “A Kansas News Service analysis found no other state imposes such demanding rules on such a wide range of people.”1 And these restrictions have ballooned in recent decades,2 with seemingly no evidence to prove that such registries promote public safety.3 Despite this lack of evidence, the Kansas Supreme Court overruled its own conclusion that these registries are punitive, on the grounds that they boost public safety.4
We need an exit ramp in Kansas for people who have served their time, completed all parts of their sentence, and don’t pose a threat to their communities. This committee has the chance to make that happen by creating a sensible way for drug offenders to petition to get off the registry.
Additionally, we request that no docket fee or risk assessment fee be charged as they limit the ability of petitioners to access this process. These fees impose more penalties on people who are looking to become contributing members of their community—we do not need to add additional barriers to reentry. Imposing additional fees onto people as they navigate rent, food, transportation, and childcare is detrimental to successful reintegration.5
We support HB 2515, with the caveat that the docket fees and risk assessment fees be removed so that people can smoothly transition back into their community. We have attached additional resources for your review. Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony here today.
2Appendix A, Summary of changes to Kansas offender registration law from 1993-present