Opinion Columns & Blogs

Money will need to follow major juvenile justice reform

Monday’s final passage in the Kansas House of a 120-page bill reforming juvenile justice moved the Legislature closer to major, lasting policymaking on public safety amid what has been a frustrating session. Assuming Senate and House negotiators find consensus and Gov. Sam Brownback signs the reform, Kansas soon will focus less on detention and out-of-home placements of young offenders and more on community-based educational, vocational and therapeutic approaches aimed at their rehabilitation. The changes are projected to save about $72 million over five years, which may explain part of the bill’s overwhelming appeal in a law-and-order Legislature. The keys going forward will be ensuring more money is reinvested in community programs, as promised, and that the well-founded initial concerns of prosecutors including Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett have been addressed. – Rhonda Holman