Mentally ill in Kansas prisons more than double since 2006

From the Topeca-Capital Journal
Jan. 26, 2013

Brownback reallocates $10M for mental health initiative
By Tim Carpenter

Republican Sen. Steve Fitzgerald is convinced growth in the proportion of mentally ill Kansans in jails and prisons arcs back to the state’s failure to develop an effective community-based system of treatment.

His district includes Lansing Correctional Facility, which serves as one of the many repositories for people with mental health challenges beyond the capacity of local treatment providers. State psychiatric hospitals — Osawatomie State Hospital, Larned State Hospital and Rainbow Mental Health Facility — also are under duress.

In effect, Fitzgerald said, Kansas Department of Corrections Secretary Ray Roberts is by default the provider of last resort for a growing cadre of people with mental illness.

“You have become responsible for dealing with our inability to address our mental health problems,” Fitzgerald said.

Roberts is well aware of the 126 percent increase in mentally ill prisoners in Kansas since 2006. Nearly two of five Kansas’ adult inmates are classified as mentally ill. Men and women on parole, with untreated mental deficiencies, often cycle through the criminal justice system.

“It’s one of the critical issues,” Roberts said.

In response to this corrections reality and following the December slaying of 20 children and six adults at a school in Newtown, Conn., Gov. Sam Brownback shelved plans to cut funding to the Kansas mental health network and announced he would redirect $10 million for a new mental health initiative.

“I am committed to strengthening this system and making it more effective,” Brownback said.

Shawn Sullivan, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, is responsible for developing a program addressing the governor’s call for improved services to people most likely to wind up in a state hospital or behind bars.

He said $5 million would continue to be allocated to the state’s 27 community mental health centers.
The other half of the proposed funding would be dedicated to a half-dozen new regional recovery support centers assigned to work with adults and youths with repetitive hospital admissions or with frequent contact with law enforcement or the court system, he said.

Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, said during a recent Senate hearing she was skeptical a regional approach would advance the objective of providing intensive case management of people with mental illness in each city and town.

Read the rest here.

APNewsBreak: Former Idaho prison heads transferred

By REBECCA BOONE (in: Associated Press)
June 11, 2010

BOISE, Idaho — A private prison company being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union amid allegations of extreme violence at an Idaho lockup has shuffled Idaho’s ousted warden and assistant warden to top posts at federal prisons in Kansas and Nevada.

Phillip Valdez, the former warden at the 2,104-bed Idaho Correctional Center near Boise, has been named assistant warden at the Leavenworth Detention Center, a prison CCA runs for the U.S. Marshals Service in Leavenworth, Kan.

The company didn’t have any open warden positions, so Valdez opted to take the assistant warden spot at the 1,033-bed Kansas prison rather than leave the company, said Corrections Corporation of America spokesman Steve Owens.

ICC’s former assistant warden, Dan Prado, has been named assistant warden at the new Nevada Southern Detention Center, a 1,072-bed facility currently being built at Pahrump, Nev., for the Office of Federal Detention Trustee, an agency under the U.S. Department of Justice.

Neither Valdez nor Prado could be reached by The Associated Press.

CCA announced that Valdez and Prado would no longer be leading the Idaho prison after the $155 million lawsuit was filed earlier this year.

The ACLU and inmates at the prison are asking for class-action status, contending the prison is so violent that it’s been dubbed “gladiator school” by prisoners and that guards expose inmates to beatings from other prisoners as a management tool. The lawsuit also contends CCA has denied adequate medical care to injured inmates as a way to reduce the appearance of injuries.

Read more here

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Once a Model for Reform, Kansas Cuts Vital Prison Services

This comes from Matt Kelley
April 09, 2010
From the Prison Law Blog

In recent years, Kansas has been a standard-bearer for corrections reform. It’s managed to inspire reformers around the country by reducing recidivism through pre-release education and post-release services — but all that is being jeopardized now by budget cuts that could gut its core programs.

A we’ve written here recently, state budget crises have led to both good and bad cutbacks in prison and parole programs. For many states, the Great Recession has served as a wake-up call to rein in wasteful, destructive incarceration policies. Elsewhere, budget shortfalls have meant cuts to promising, innovative programs that are helping former prisoners succeed and helping defendants avoid jail through alternatives like education, work release and drug treatment.

Kansas, unfortunately, falls into the latter category. Just two years ago, its innovative reentry services had a budget of $12 million. This year, though, such services are getting less than half of that — $5.3 million.

Prior to these cuts, the state was extraordinarily successful: it had reduced recidivism dramatically and cut parole violations by a third. The very programs responsible, though, are now getting the ax. An excellent story by Rick Montgomery in the Kansas City Star paints a bleak picture of these cuts. The bottom line? While it’s too early to tell how the cuts will affect recidivism, unraveling the safety net so suddenly can’t be a good thing. It’s quite likely that instead of funding treatment, the state will simply end up paying for prison cells to house a greater number of people re-committing crime. The price of human suffering and diminished safety is yet another cost — one that doesn’t so readily translate into a cash value.

Even as Kansas’s model is threatened, other states — like Michigan — are making more judicious cuts where they count, closing prisons and focusing on services and treatment. Likewise, California is aiming to address its massive prison problem by reducing the number of prisoners who get sent back for petty parole violations.

Meanwhile, Kansas looks like it’s rapidly losing its status as a model reform state, and instead becoming a symbol of precisely what not to do.

Via Prison Law Blog