With a hard-hit budget due to COVID-19, Kansas is taking a serious look at the costs of its incarcerated population.


The state commission in charge of criminal justice reform met Monday to hear the most recent data from the Council of State Governments, a nonprofit organization helping state officials shape public policy.


"It costs Kansas taxpayers nearly $30,000 annually to keep each person incarcerated in Kansas," said Gov. Laura Kelly in a statement. "Safely reducing that price tag gives us the chance to invest in substance use programs and mental health services that help stop the cycle of reoffending."


Currently, the state is expected to experience a shortfall of $1.37 billion from tax collections for the next state budget, The Associated Press reported.


The pandemic has altered the size of the prison population significantly. From March to July this year, admissions to prisons took a sharp decline compared to last year. While 400 to 600 were admitted per month in 2019, only 100-200 entered prison per month in 2020.


But at the same time, prison releases have decreased and tightened year over year, from 500 to 600 a month to around 400 a month this year.


"Most states around the country have seen pretty significant drop-offs in their prison population, and most states have been seeing that due to changes happening at the front door as opposed to the back door," said Carl Reynolds, policy and legal adviser for CSG.


Overall, the state prison population had been steadily increasing before the pandemic, reaching 10,000 in fiscal year 2019. Now, it is projected to decrease to 9,584 by 2030 instead of 11,428 because of the virus.


In terms of public safety, while property crime in Kansas had decreased, violent crime has seen a jump of 14% from 2008 to 2018. Since March, calls for violent crime and especially domestic violence have doubled or tripled, project manager Patrick Armstrong said.


CSG focused a lot on how drug-related crimes were putting an immense pressure on the system. From 2010 to 2019, felony drug cases increased from 13% to 27%. Overall, it cost $41 million last fiscal year to incarcerate for drug offenses.


They also talked about inefficiencies when it came to post-release supervision, parole and integrating back into society.


"Some folks are reporting eight, nine times to different supervision officers as a result," said Jennifer Kisela, program director at CSG.


The criminal justice commission will be making a report for recommendations on improving the system by December.