- Juvenile Defense and Court Process — Kansas Supreme Court Rebukes Prosecutor for Negative Comments about a Youth: At a sentencing hearing after reaching a plea agreement with a youth, a prosecutor made several negative personal comments about the youth, stating that he was dangerous, had no remorse or compassion, and was a menace to the community. The parties had agreed to a sentence of 102 months, but the sentencing judge rejected the deal and sentenced the youth to 204 months in prison instead. On appeal, the Kansas Supreme Court held that the prosecutor violated the plea deal by making negative comments that did not pertain to the facts of the case and were outside the scope of a summary of the victims’ statements. The court found that such comments were unprovoked and unnecessary, undermining the prosecution’s own sentencing recommendation and implicitly conveying that the youth deserved a greater punishment. The court vacated the youth’s sentence and granted him a new sentencing hearing. State v. Urista, 296 Kan. 576, 293 P.3d 738 (2013).
- Adjudication and Sentencing — Kansas Raises the Legal Standard for Detention of Youth Charged with Felonies: Kansas now requires a finding of probable cause — rather than just an allegation — that a youth committed a felony offense in order for the youth to be placed in detention. Detention is also permitted for youth with a history of violence, if there is probable cause that a youth will fail to appear in court, for youth with a felony record, or for youth who violate probation. Ordinary evidentiary rules do not apply at detention hearings, but youth may present evidence that probable cause does not exist, and may request a rehearing within 14 days if the judge orders detention. S.B. 320/Act No. 2012-69, signed into law and effective April 6, 2012.
- Conditions of Confinement — Sedgwick County Eliminates Use of Restraint Chairs in Detention: The Sedgwick County Department of Corrections ended the use of restraint chairs in its juvenile detention facility in October 2011. The change was made after county officials consulted current best practices in the field and conducted a close review of the department’s use of restraint practices and isolation. The review revealed that use of restraints, restraint chairs, and isolation was declining due, in part, to staff training in evidence-based practices, crisis intervention stress management debriefing with residents, staff debriefing of critical incidents, closer monitoring by supervisors, use of specialized case plans with youth experiencing mental health issues, and enhanced programming time for residents. Due to the department’s declining use of restraint chairs and a national movement away from overuse of restraints, the Department of Corrections phased out the use of restraint chairs in juvenile detention.
- School-to-Prison Pipeline — Sedgwick County Develops Written Protocols and Services to Reduce School-Based Arrests: Sedgwick County, Kansas developed a written agreement between police and public schools to reduce schoolbased arrests for low-level offenses. The county first developed the agreement with alternative schools in January 2010, expanding the agreement to all Wichita Public Schools in August 2011. The agreement, along with other reforms to connect youth to services without making referrals to the juvenile justice system, helped reduce school-based arrests for disorderly conduct by 37 percent from 2009 to 2010.
- Probation, Parole, and Reentry — Sedgwick County Implements Graduated Sanctions and Rewards for Youth on Probation: To reduce the number of youth entering detention for violating the terms of their probation, Sedgwick County developed a system of graduated sanctions and incentives in August 2009. The system equips probation officers with greater options to reward positive behavior and hold youth accountable for negative behavior without resorting to incarceration. Sedgwick County also developed a non-residential weekend reporting alternative to detention program in January 2010. These innovations, along with increased use of evidence-based practices and structured decision making, led to a drop in out-of-home commitments of 40 percent between 2006 and 2010. The number of youth locked up on any given day fell 20 percent between 2006 and 2011; as a result, county officials estimate that they are saving about $1.28 million per year on detention beds.
- Status Offenses — Legislature Passes Law to Keep Status Offenders Out of Detention: Kansas now prohibits the use of detention or jail for youth under age 18 who are arrested for underage possession or consumption of alcohol. The law is an effort to ensure that youth who commit status offenses are not locked up, in accordance with best practices and the requirements of the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. S.B. 452, signed into law and effective July 1, 2010.
- Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Sedgwick County Allows Non-Custodial Bench Warrants: Sedgwick County implemented a two-tier warrant procedure to reduce bench warrants resulting in admissions to secure detention. The procedure permits judges to issue non-custodial orders in addition to custodial orders.
- Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) — Governor Launches Effort to Address Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare: Kansas’ former governor launched an effort to promote racial and ethnic equity across all Kansas child welfare and juvenile justice programs. The effort brought together 10 communities to examine disparities and generate recommendations for reform. Each community detailed its recommendations in a final report submitted to the governor. Sedgwick County in particular focused on reducing disparities in the juvenile justice system by recommending the elimination of zero tolerance policies, development of an objective screening tool to be used in detention facilities, implementation of a risk assessment tool to be used by probation officers, cultural competency and anti-racism training, and development of multi-system approaches to better integrate and coordinate service delivery for youth served by multiple systems. Data from an evaluation of the initiative shows a drop in arrests of African American youth between 2009 and 2011, and an overall drop in out-of-home placements.
- Facility Closures and Downsizing — State Shutters Juvenile Facility, Downsizes Overall Facility Population: In 2009, Kansas closed the Beloit Juvenile Correctional Facility for girls, a 66-bed facility. The state projected a savings of $1.4 million in FY 2009 from the Beloit facility closure. Overall, the population of Kansas’ juvenile correctional facilities declined from a monthly average of 410 in FY 2007 to a monthly average of 332 in FY 2010, a 19 percent decrease.