Dept. of Corrections: Kansas prisons are overcrowded, have salary issues

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Kansas Department of Corrections presented to the Joint Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight on Thursday, where they brought to the member’s attention two main problems: Kansas’ correctional facilities are currently overcrowded, and the state employees with a college degree are currently receiving less pay than their co-workers who do not have a degree.

The current amount of male and female inmates is only 151 away from reaching the capacity of 10,195, according to the Department of Corrections.

“System capacity is all of the issues of how much capacity does this work with offenders on a one-on-one basis or on a group basis,” said Executive Director of Public Affairs Randy Bowman. “It’s not simply about prison beds, that is so much where people gravitate towards.”

It is estimated by the department for the number of inmates in Kansas to pass the capacity next year, and continue to exceed it in years to come.

“We’ve got to have some solutions in the state of Kansas about how many people we send to prison,” Bowman said.

The department plans to send 120 inmates to a private prison in Arizona, which was originally planned to happen this summer.

This is believed to be a way to momentarily alleviate the overcrowding so that the department can determine how they stop this problem. They hope to return the inmates back to Kansas in the spring.

“If we don’t get some policy changes about how many we incarcerate we may have to keep down that path, but we would like to think we can bring them back in a few months,” Bowman said.

The current prison overcrowding is not only having an impact on the inmates but the staff as well, according to Bowman. They are currently having to provide programs for all of the inmates, especially ones at high-risk.

“There are a lot of needs in our correction system because we’ve put so many people into it in recent years,” Bowman said.

However, it is difficult for the department to motivate the staff and retain them due to salary issues.

Currently, the department’s employees who have a college degree, such as corrections counselors or parole officers, are not making as much as uniformed officers like sergeants or lieutenants which does not require a college degree.

This year, uniformed officers’ salaries were raised from $15.75 an hour to $18.26.

“(It) really makes it difficult to motivate staff, keep staff encouraged doing the hard work they’re doing, and then to retain those staff if we do get them on our payroll,” Bowman said. “So we really need the help of those who make the appropriation’s decisions to go ‘we worked on uniform staff’s salaries last year, but we need to work on other staff’s salaries as well.”

The department hopes that after presenting these issues to the committee, it will educate them on the current condition of the correctional facilities in the state and motivate them to provide recommendations and solutions to the legislature next year.

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