FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
February 13, 2019
 
CONTACT: Mark McCormick, Director of Strategic Communications, 913-490-4113, mmccormick@aclukansas.org
 
OVERLAND PARK, KS - The Kansans for Smart Justice coalition will host its annual Lobby Day on Thursday Feb. 14, drawing an expected 100 Kansans from across the state in a mobilization aimed at rolling back mass incarceration and other important reforms.
 
Organizers want to influence legislation regarding criminal justice reform policies relating to civil asset forfeiture, defelonizing all classes of drug crimes, and standardizing diversion practices state-wide.
 
“We are inviting citizens from across the state to join us in Topeka for a day of action, change, advocacy and fun,” said Ellen Glover, field director for the ACLU of Kansas, which is a part of the coalition. “We’re asking legislators to “have a heart” and end mass incarceration.”
 
The event runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Capital Auditorium in Topeka and is free and open to the public.
 
The event will begin with a brief training session on criminal justice reform priorities and how best to address these priorities with legislators, followed by visits to select legislators.
Kansans for Smart Justice says Kansas’ 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 with racial disparities. 
 
While the state's crime rate has fallen in recent years, the prison population has more than quadrupled from 2,300 in 1978 to 10,000 in 2018. Kansas prisons are packed beyond capacity.
 
Keeping 9,700 Kansans, many of them non-violent drug offenders or individuals with mental illnesses, in prison cost taxpayers $244 million in 2017. The total rises by millions more when local government spending on correctional facilities is included. 
 
This system needs reform. To do that, Kansas needs 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 instead be invested in education, healthcare, and crime prevention.
 
The coalition believes “tough on crime” talk is cheap and outdated, but our state’s obsession with locking up non-violent drug offenders is expensive. Whether you have an incarcerated loved one or you’re a taxpayer, this crisis touches every Kansan.
 
“It's time to put the whole "war on drugs" and "tough on crime" attitude behind us,” said Rabbi Moti Rieber, executive director of Kansas Interfaith Action. “We have locked up far too many of our people for non-violent drug offenses, ruining their lives and the lives of their families for acts that shouldn't be - and depending on who's involved, often aren't - considered crimes. We just can't afford to throw people away anymore - it needs to stop, now.”
 
Kansans for Smart Justice boasts a broad coalition:
AdHoc Group Against Crime
American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas
Breakthrough Club
Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence, and Research
Communities Creating Opportunity
Jobs and Education - Not Incarceration (JENI)
Kansas Appleseed
Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Kansas Black Leadership Council
Kansas Communities for Reform
Kansas Interfaith Action
MainStream Coalition
Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice
NAACP - Kansas State Conference of Branches
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Kansas
National Association of Social Workers - Kansas Chapter
Kansas Reaching Out From Within
Sunflower Community Action
United Church of Christ, Kansas-Oklahoma Conference
Urban League of Greater Kansas City
Urban League of Kansas
Women for Kansas
YWCA Northeast Kansas
 
 
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About the ACLU of Kansas: The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, visit our website at www.aclukansas.org
 

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