The state plans to convert the Larned State Hospital into a medium-security prison for 18- to 25-year-old inmates.
The Kansas Department of Corrections said this week that the inmates housed at Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility would have less than three years left to serve.
The Hutchinson News reports that 150 mental health inmates now at Larned would be moved to the El Dorado Correctional Facility.
Those moves will begin this summer and be spread out over several months, Corrections spokeswoman Cheryl Cadue said in an e-mail response to questions.
The increasing population of offenders requiring the level of mental health services provided at Larned has outgrown the available space. Those services are currently being provided at both Larned and El Dorado. The services will now be consolidated at the El Dorado facility.
About 70 inmates are receiving mental health services at El Dorado, Cadue said. The consolidated program will provide 50 to 60 more beds for the behavioral health program that serves offenders with severe and persistent mental illness.
Staff will receive additional mental health training to work with the relocated inmates, Cadue said.
“Consolidating the two service units at El Dorado provides for a more efficient delivery of the essential behavioral health services to this population while maintaining the safe operations of the facilities,” a Corrections statement announcing the changes said.
In addition to the increased bed space, the proximity of the El Dorado prison to Wichita provides an opportunity to more easily meet the staffing needs of the program, officials said.
The relocated inmates will be placed in special pods at El Dorado, Cadue said, and the changes will have no impact on the inmates currently housed there.
Larned Mayor William Nusser said city officials are concerned about the loss of higher-paying jobs when the change is made.
And an organization representing corrections officers is questioning whether officers and inmates would be safe at El Dorado, which the group says is understaffed.
Contributing: Associated Press