Our state’s criminal justice and prison system costs too much, needlessly incarcerates too many, works against those trying to make a fresh start, and is permeated by racial disparity. The state’s crime rate has fallen consistently, but the Kansas prison population has quadrupled from 2,300 in 1978 to 9,700 in 2014.
Keeping 9,700 Kansans, many of them non-violent drug offenders or individuals with mental illnesses, in prison cost taxpayers $236 million in 2014. The total rises by millions more when local government spending on correctional facilities is included.
This broken system can be fixed. But 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 used to invest in education, healthcare, and crime prevention.