September 28, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 28, 2018

CONTACT:
Mark McCormick, director of strategic communications, 913-490-4113, mmccormick@aclukansas.org;
Somil Trivedi, ACLU's  Trone Center for Justice, 202-715-0802, strivedi@aclu.org
Ryan Karerat, ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice, 212-284-7388, rkarerat@aclu.org

OVERLAND PARK, KS - Responding to a June lawsuit filed against him by the ACLU and its Kansas affiliate in the Kansas Supreme Court, Montgomery County Attorney Larry Markle offers arguments unrelated to the simple question of whether his diversion program complies with the law.

The suit asked the court to force Markle to follow the law and begin notifying every defendant about diversion programs.

Markle has fought this obligation from the outset.

He was one of the Kansas County Attorneys, for example, to force the ACLU to file open records requests for information regarding diversion programming, but he was the only one to levy a fee for that information.

In his response, Markle challenged the standing of the plaintiffs and asked that the case be moved to a district court.

Somil Trivedi, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Trone Center for Justice, called Markle’s response puzzling and said Montgomery County residents and every Kansas taxpayer should be concerned.

“He’s fighting pretty hard for the right not to notify people of diversion,” Trivedi said. “Why is he so afraid of merely providing information?"

"Larry Markle is an extreme example of this behavior but he's not the only one who is asserting that he doesn't have a duty to notify defendants of diversion," said Lauren Bonds, legal director for the ACLU of Kansas.

The ACLU focused its efforts on Markle because of Montgomery County’s weak diversion program stats and because he pursued the expensive and disproportionately harsh incarceration of individuals who pose minimal community risks. 

Diversion programming allows defendants alternatives to incarceration such as treatment, community service, or restitution.

“Diversion programs have proven financial and social benefits and are essential in establishing a rehabilitative rather than punitive criminal justice system. Ignoring these programs is not just wrong, it’s against the law,” Trivedi said. “We’re taking action in Kansas to send a message to prosecutors that it’s their obligation to serve their community, not just put as many people in cages as they can.”

Kansas could reduce its prison population and save $8.9 million annually if Kansas prosecutors embraced diversion at the national average of 9%. Last year, the ACLU of Kansas released a report that found Kansas prosecutors utilized diversion in felony cases at half the national average, and 23 counties did not utilize diversion at all.

"The ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice recently released a detailed blueprint for criminal justice reform in Kansas—commonsense changes including diversion and sentencing reform could cut the state’s jail and prison rolls in half and save the state $280 million dollars," Trivedi said. "Markle's response claims to care about saving taxpayer money. He can start by expanding diversion and enacting these other reforms."

The ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice — an unprecedented effort to reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50% and to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system — has launched this new, multi-year initiative to ensure prosecutors are held accountable for fueling mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

The ACLU accomplishes this through legislative advocacy, voter education, and litigation.

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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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