State Rep. Blaine Finch, R-Ottawa, shared an update on the impact of SB 367, a bill that transformed the way Kansas treats kids who commit crime. After this bill was passed, it’s important for taxpayers, and parents, to understand the changes in the bill that have been made.

This overhaul of the juvenile justice system has presented an about-face for methods of holding youth accountable for their behavior, offering important avenues to correct behavior in accordance with research and best practices while making opportunities for behavioral change and positive role model influence available. It prioritized probation and community engagement over locking kids up in faraway prisons that are largely ineffective. This change hasn’t been at the expense of public safety, either; when youth pose a serious threat to their community, there’s bed space in a secure facility for them.

Kansas took a bold and calculated step toward positive reform, and now the results are starting to pour in. Rep. Finch shared that after just one year, the number of youth held in locked facilities dropped by between 25 percent and 40 percent, saving the state money and (more importantly) improving the potential for these kids to go on to a productive and healthy life. Now, the Legislature needs to make sure that funds saved from these changes get reinvested into better community options for kids, so that access to services won’t depend on geography.

With training for system stakeholders and an oversight committee in place, we can trust that Kansas is on a better path for youth justice. Thank you for the update, Representative Finch, and for your commitment to keeping our communities safe and our kids healthy. Their lives matter.

— Craig DeRoche, senior vice president of advocacy and public policy, Prison Fellowship