Sedgwick County DA pitches lawmakers on criminal justice reform

April 10, 2019 - 8:45 pm

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett makes a pitch to lawmakers about criminal justice reform in Kansas. 

In a 15-page letter to lawmakers, Bennett lays out a plan for a system of regional mental health facilities to be open in the state to keep offenders from going to jail or prison. Bennett tells KSN News: 

"Mental health and drug treatment. Treatment is the overarching thing. We have to get serious about it as a state if we want to see any change." 

Currently, Kansas prisons are at 101 percent capacity and the DA points to mental health as a main reason for the bloated population in state prisons. He says for every one dollar invested, it will go to help four people, but admits...

"There's no return on investment if there is no investment. We're going to have to get serious about this and put the money up front to build the facilities and understand that it may be a year or two before we see the benefits from that." 

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly says she wants to move the state's prison system from being "all-punitive to much more therapeutic." Lawmakers in the state legislature are aware of the mental health concerns in the state prison system.

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