Crime & Courts

A.G.: Fund predator evaluations

TOPEKA — Kansas Attorney General Steve Six is asking legislators to restore funding to a program that evaluates sexually violent predators before they return to society after prison.

Six said in a letter dated Thursday that a Department of Corrections contract was canceled April 1 because of budget cuts to the department. He wants $337,500 to be restored to fulfill the contract with Correct Care Solutions, which had been conducting the evaluations, for the remainder of the 2010 fiscal year and all of 2011.

"Over the course of the past two legislative sessions, the Legislature has inflicted dramatic budget cuts to public safety agencies in Kansas," the Democratic attorney general wrote. "These cuts have gone too far.

"Restore the funding cuts ... and discontinue any plans for further cuts to public safety agencies. Public safety is not a political bargaining chip."

Corrections spokesman Bill Miskell said the contract with Correct Care Solutions did not provide a core mental health service required for the inmate population, but that it is important for the attorney general and parole board to properly evaluate inmates preparing for release.

Miskell said $23.5 million was cut from the current-year budget and the agency is faced with an additional $3.8 million cut in 2011 in health care contracts.

"A portion of these service reductions were advanced to 2010 to reduce the services lost in 2011," Miskell said, adding that legislators were briefed on those cuts.

Sexually violent inmates who have completed their prison sentences are required to be evaluated by three forensic psychologists to see whether they should get further treatment or be released from custody.

The attorney general's office reviews those evaluations before determining whether to build a case that the offenders are sexually violent predators and seek further confinement. Those deemed in need of additional treatment are sent to the state's sex offender treatment program at Larned.

Six proposes that the evaluation program be moved from corrections oversight to the Kansas Parole Board.

"The failure to act to restore funding for the psychologists will increase the likelihood of sexually violent predators re-entering society," he said.

The Republican-controlled Legislature will consider Six's request when it begins writing the state budget next week.

Senate Ways and Means Chairman Jay Emler said such a request would be easy to fund in a normal budget year. But Kansas is facing significant budget problems, with a projected shortfall between revenue and expenditures of more than $400 million.

"I suspect that we take a hard look at this to see if we can come up with some money. Even finding that much money is going to be tough," said Emler, a Lindsborg Republican.

Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson and Emler have said that public safety funding should not be cut further if more spending reductions are needed.

"I'm sure the public doesn't want these sexually violent predators back out on the streets," Emler said.