The leader of the Kansas Department of Corrections said he has some good things to report about the state's prison system. But, he acknowledged the department always will be facing challenges.
Kansas Secretary of Corrections Ray Roberts spoke Thursday afternoon to members of the Leavenworth Lions Club.
Roberts, who once served as the warden of the Lansing Correctional Facility, provided a briefing on the state of KDOC and answered questions from the audience.
He said safety and security is the department's foremost concern.
But, another priority is the reduction of inmate recidivism.
The state's recidivism rate is 37.1 percent, which Roberts said is a significant drop since 2000. He said the state's recidivism rate also is lower than the national average.
Roberts said KDOC uses evidence-based practices to reduce recidivism and also focuses attention and resources on people considered to be at the highest risk of re-offending.
He said only 2 percent of the KDOC budget is devoted to rehabilitation efforts.
He said 18 percent of the budget is spent on health care.
"We're the largest mental health provider in Kansas," he said.
He said 38 percent of the state's prison population is mentally ill.
The KDOC has about 9,600 beds for its adult inmate population.
Roberts said 95 percent of the prison population will be leaving prison at some point.
He said Gov. Sam Brownback asked that Kansas inmates have volunteer mentors to help them as they make the transition back into communities.
"We release 5,000 inmates every year from the prison system," Roberts said.
He said more than 3,000 volunteer mentors have been trained to work with inmates six months before their release and six months after their release.
Roberts said the first-year results of the mentoring program look promising. The recidivism rate for inmates who had mentors is less than the rate for the whole population.
Roberts said the Lansing Correctional Facility is the largest of the state's correctional facilities for adults.
LCF has a capacity of around 2,400.
Roberts said LCF has 125 buildings on its grounds.
"It's a big place with a lot of hiding places," he said.
He said Lansing is second among the eight prisons in terms of the least amount of employee turnover.
Roberts said the KDOC is projected to be out of its current number of prison beds for male inmates by the end of fiscal year 2016. The department won't exceed its capacity for female inmates until fiscal year 2019.
He said there are three options for addressing the problem ― build more capacity, contract to house inmates or reduce sentencing penalties to reduce the number of inmates coming into the prisons.
Page 2 of 2 - "The state will have to make some decisions," he said.