In two years after Kansas began an overhaul of its juvenile justice system, the state increased its use of community-based programs as an alternative to placing young people in locked detention, improving outcomes and saving more than $30 million. The state Legislature passed Senate Bill 367 (S.B. 367) in 2016. The comprehensive juvenile justice improvement bill included high-impact changes, such as:
- Establishing consistent statewide standards to hold youth accountable;
- Restricting out-of-home placement for lower-level youth, consistent with the best available research about interventions that work to reduce recidivism;
- Focusing intensive system responses, such as placement in a secure detention facility, on the highest-risk juveniles; and
- Shifting resources toward evidence-based alternatives that allow youth to be supervised safely and effectively while remaining at home.
An early threat to the funding at the heart of the legislative overhaul tested Kansas’ commitment to creating lasting change in its juvenile justice system, but supporters mobilized to protect the future of the changes. With implementation still underway, early indicators suggest the state is well on its way to solidifying sustainable improvements in its juvenile justice system.
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