Some states are finding great success in reducing prison populations. For example, the percentage of Kansas inmates who commit new crimes while on supervised release has dropped significantly over five years.
The rate, which was a little more than 5 percent in 2002, fell to 2.2 percent last year, Corrections Secretary Roger Werholtz told lawmakers recently. He attributed the reduction to increased legislative funding for programs that supervise inmates after they leave prison, and more dollars for alcohol and drug treatment.
Werholtz said that with fewer offenders returning to prison, the number of inmates in Kansas prisons has decreased from 9,153 in 2004 to 8,854 in mid-2007. "There is sufficient (prison) capacity to meet our needs for the next 10 years," Werholtz told the House Appropriations Committee. However, he said that prediction assumed that the Legislature would not pass new sentencing laws that would put more offenders in prison. "During the last week of January of 2008, the prison population fell below 8,700, which was the first time that had been done since July, 2002," he said.
Werholtz praised the passage last year of SB-14, which enacted a grant program to encourage community corrections programs to reduce revocation rates at least 20 percent. The law also reduced sentences by 60 days for offenders who complete job training and drug abuse programs in prison. Rep. Pat Colloton, the Leawood Republican who sponsored the House legislation, said the goal was to save money and rehabilitate criminals by preventing return trips to prison.
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