Crime & Courts

Cuts to Sedgwick County probation program result in more recidivism

Funding cuts by the state have led to more recidivism and less success in an intensive supervision probation program, Sedgwick County's corrections director told commissioners Wednesday.

The cuts have resulted in high caseloads and less face-to-face time with clients, which in turn has led to increased admissions to jail and prison, Mark Masterson said.

The state gave the program more money in fiscal year 2008. That led to 29 percent fewer probation revocations in fiscal year 2008 and 16 percent fewer in fiscal year 2009.

But those gains didn't last, Masterson said.

Budget cuts of 12.2 percent combined with a 6.75 percent growth in clients "resulted in, frankly, a problem that I wasn't able to solve," he said.

He asked for commissioners' help by transferring $316,608 from the budget for day reporting to the adult intensive supervision program.

That should get the program through the rest of the state's fiscal year 2010, which ends June 30.

He noted that "the clients we supervise are higher-risk offenders living in the community among us."

Commissioners voted unanimously to shift the money but expressed concern about how the cuts would affect future county budgets.

Further affecting the program is unemployment, Masterson said, because it is taking longer for participants to find jobs. Clients pay fees to the county to participate in the program.

The cuts, the increase in participants and unemployment are creating a "perfect storm," commissioner Tim Norton said.

"This is a precursor to a conversation we're going to have at budget time. This just fills the gap right now," Norton said of the transfer.

He noted that intensive supervision is key to success for people on probation.

"We can acquiesce and let this just be supervision," but that will lead to more recidivism, he said.

The target caseload for working with high- and moderate-risk offenders is 17 to 20. Currently probation staff have a caseload of 31 for that population and 35 overall, Masterson said. Without additional support, that number will increase to 47 next year.

Commissioner Kelly Parks said the county is "going to have to finally say 'no' to picking up the funding" of some programs.

"This is one of them that I'm going to be supportive of because it needs to be done for public safety and for your department to be effective." Parks said.