Sedgwick County will discontinue a group home program for young male offenders next month.
It’s a result of juvenile justice reform at the state level that has shifted the focus from detention to treatment for many young offenders.
The Sedgwick County Youth Program is a residential re-entry group home program for male juvenile offenders ages 16-and-a-half to 22 years old. The primary goal is to supervise those offenders in an independent living setting.
“Clients learn how to gain and maintain employments, life skills, … make connections to community services and development of housing plans for release,” according to a county news release.
County Corrections Director Glenda Martens said Wednesday the state is no longer renewing licenses and programs that don’t meet eligibility standards in Senate Bill 367, a juvenile justice reform law that passed the Kansas Legislature last year with bipartisan support.
The law aims to reduce the reliance on detention and other costly out-of-home placements for low-risk juvenile offenders. More low-level offenders are staying at home and participating in community-based educational, vocational and therapy programs.
“Hopefully, that is a better way to do things going forward,” said Commissioner Jim Howell. “It is arguably more efficient. I hope it’s more effective.”
The county’s youth program housed 14 offenders in 2016, but the number has slowly declined. The program now has no clients, Martens said.
Howell said he didn’t like that the program was housing juvenile offenders near adult felons at the Adult Residential Facility.
“I don’t think that was ever an ideal situation,” Howell said. “Trying to treat them in that facility wasn’t the best place to do that.”
Howell said the county will still help youth offenders through community-based programs.
“It’s not like we’re dropping the ball and not providing some treatment for these kids,” he said. “We’re just doing it in a different way and in a way that’s not going to take them into a wrong direction.”
Martens said they don’t expect layoffs from closing the program, which takes effect Nov. 11.