Politics & Government

Kansas juvenile offenders go on destruction spree, PlayStation survives

A group of teenage offenders went on a rampage of destruction at the state’s only juvenile correction facility Sunday night, the Department of Corrections reported Monday.

About 10 youths, ages 17 to 19, dumped drawers, flooded floors and smashed computers in three living units and a staff area of the Juvenile Correctional Complex in Topeka, said Jeanny Sharp of KDOC.

While the damage was widespread, it was also selective and spared the video games, Sharp said.

“The TV they have a PlayStation on, they didn’t destroy,” Sharp said.

Authorities are investigating to try to determine what set off the teens and to estimate the dollar value of the damage, Sharp said. She said it’s been about five years since the last incident of similar magnitude.

No one was injured, which Randy Bowman, Deputy Secretary of Juvenile Services, attributed to “the professionalism and response of our staff.”

About 165 youths are incarcerated at the complex.

Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita and a member of the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee, said the underlying problems in juvenile justice have been cuts in state family support and long sentences for youth offenders.

“We have tried over the past couple of years to route more juveniles into alternatives to incarceration,” he said. “I don’t know anything specific about the individuals involved in this incident, but from their ages, it would be a fair guess they’ve probably been in this system for a while, and that legacy of ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ is going to continue to cause us problems.”

He said legislators have struggled to get information out of the juvenile corrections in recent years and complimented Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration for releasing information and photos from the weekend rampage.

“The fact of the matter is prior to the Kelly administration we (legislators) had no idea what was really going on,” Carmichael said. “I would receive anecdotal reports from people who worked in juvenile justice facilities that things were just as bad there as they were in adult Department of Corrections facilities.”

Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.