The State of Kansas has been creating investment and community-based alternatives for youth in the juvenile justice system. Unfortunately, we keep coming up short in really supporting our youth. Senate Bill 367, passed in 2016, is intended to reduce youth incarceration and reinvest in community-based alternatives. After several years of funding, efforts have only just started to release young people from youth prisons, returning them back to communities. Unfortunately, however, young people who have been impacted by youth incarceration have not played a role in determining how Kansas should reinvest money to support youth in their communities.
One consequence of SB367 was to close down halfway houses and group homes throughout the state resulting in very few options for young people leaving youth prisons. In addition, Kansas has not adequately invested in transitional housing, employment and positive, safe spaces for youth in their communities.
Foster Care System
Kansas Department of Children and Families (DCF) has not provided needed support to young people and their families and, instead, has pushed children into the foster care to prison pipeline. Instead of addressing the needs of struggling families, the youth are deemed "problem children" and removed from their homes. Through its policy decisions, it appears that DCF wants to open more doors to push Kansas youth into jail cells instead of into family arms.
The “school, foster care, victim-to-prison pipeline” is real and a serious issue in our communities. Youth of color are disproportionately more likely to be arrested and removed from schools. Schools no longer have a way to help and discipline, and constantly rely on school resource officers to handle discipline issues and then removement. These actions are terrifying when we use our schools to record and groom our youth for prisons.
The foster care system is sending more kids to prison than to college. Per an article from the Kansas City Star, they surveyed over 6,000 inmates in 12 states, representing every region of the country to determine how many had been in foster care and asked them about the impact on their lives. Of the inmates surveyed, 1 in 4 said they were a product of foster care. Low funding dedicated to family preservation, multiple foster care placements, lack of proper attention in schools, and homelessness after being aged out of the system, are major reasons why the foster care-to-prison pipeline exists.
Homelessness, also, is a clear path to the victim-to-prison pipeline. Displaced youth often turn to survival mode, which also makes them vulnerable to becoming victims of sex trafficking.
While Kansas has made some progress in reducing youth incarceration, the state continues to lock up youth at a higher rate than most other states. In addition, youth of color are significantly over-represented in the state’s juvenile detentions centers and prison.
According to federal data, African American youth are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white youth in Kansas. In addition, African American youth make up more than half of youth sentenced to state custody for drug offenses, although the majority of youth apprehended for drug offenses are white. Young people sentenced to long-term incarceration are held at the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex, a facility that closely resembles an adult prison. A state audit of KJCC uncovered allegations of sexual abuse and violence against the young people incarcerated there.
Download: Urban Institute Data Snapshot of Youth Incarceration in Kansas - April 2020 update
And what we are doing.
Stop the School, Fostercare, Victim to Prison Pipeline
Through organizing and youth support, we are bringing youth together who have been directly or indirectly affected by the juvenile justice system and providing spaces to create alternatives to incarceration, engage in restorative practices that bring youth back to family and community, and demand policy reflect the values of keeping families whole with needed support.
Support Youth in Their Home and in Community-Based Environments
We seek the creation of alternatives to incarceration by organizing around financial and community resources to support vulnerable youth and their families. There are states that have developed community-based programs such as "credible messenger" programs that connect youth with caring mentors who can help young people avoid further involvement with the juvenile justice system and help them grow into healthy and productive adults.
Initiate removal of youth from juvenile detention and correctional facilities by:
Examining all pre- and post-adjudication release processes and mechanisms and begin employing these as quickly as possible;
Removing youth who have COVID-19 symptoms; chronic illnesses, such as asthma or diabetes; other serious illnesses; or are in need of medical care;
Eliminating any form of detention or incarceration for youth unless a determination is made that a youth is a substantial and safety risk to others.
While youth are awaiting release:
Provide written and verbal communications to youth on COVID-19, access to medical care, and community based supports;
Ensure continued access to education;
Ensure access to legal counsel through confidential visits or teleconferencing;
Ensure access to family contacts and support networks;
Guarantee access to free unlimited phone calls.
Create transitional plans for youth released from custody to:
Ensure they have a place to live;
Meet their basic needs;
Receive immediate & adequate medical care;
Ensure immediate access to Medicaid.
For youth on probation:
Eliminate incarceration as an option for technical violations of probation;
Allow youth to travel and access medical care, stay isolated when necessary, and take care of themselves and their loved ones;
Eliminate requirements for in-person meetings with their probation officers;
Place a moratorium on all requirements to attend and pay for court and Probation- ordered programs, community service and labor.
Expand community-based programs for youth in the justice system by investing funds so that they are effectively supported in their communities.
Call to Action
Progeny sent a Call-to-Action letter to Kansas' Governor Laura Kelly urging for changes in how youth are handled in custody during this global pandemic.
Progeny youth leaders held a series of visioning sessions with their peers to ask them to share ideas about what type of resources they would like the state to invest in their communities. These results were the compile to make this report.
Looking Outside the Box: Insights from youth on How to Best Invest in Kansas (2020)
health & wellness corner.
Progeny therapeutic services consist of clinical assessments, treatment planning and ongoing support for children and youth, and their families impacted by the juvenile judicial and correctional systems.
Progeny therapy services utilizes a trauma-informed approach and is comprised of trained, licensed social work practitioners who have expertise in helping a child process the traumatic event, identify trauma triggers and provide healthy coping skills to assist with the healing journey. It is our goal to assist children, youth and their families in the healing process and successful reintegration process.
Focus of Therapy:
Our therapy addresses a range of issues that stem from violent traumatic events through several prison pipelines such as domestic violence, sexual violence, sexual exploitation, chronic stress and anxiety, depression, family relationships, family changes, abuse and traumatic events.
● ACE’s assessments
● Social Rehabilitation Service
● Behavioral Health
● Self Care
● Community Relations