Changes coming to the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility the summer will create opportunities for Barton Community College, the BCC Board of Trustees learned Tuesday.
Barton Vice President Elaine Simmons said “big changes” are coming to LCMHF and, “We have the good fortune of taking that journey with them.”
The Kansas Department of Corrections amended its contract with the college this week. As a result, the college will receive close to $500,000 more in funding for the next two years and will hire more instructors to teach inmates.
The Department of Corrections plans to convert the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility into a medium-security prison and move the nearly 150 mental health inmates there to the El Dorado Correctional Facility.
The Larned facility will become a 300-bed unit for young male offenders, 18-25 years old. It will focus on education and vocational training to better prepare them for a successful reentry into society.
The program aims to reduce the rate of inmates who re-offend after being released from 38 percent to 30 percent, Simmons said.
The 18-25 year-old-males demographic is the state’s highest recidivism group. Simmons said fewer than half have high school diplomas or GEDs. They have few marketable job skills; “70 to 75 percent of them have never had a job.”
A new approach
“This is a new approach,” Simmons said. “We’ve been told that this is a model for the state.”
In the first phase, two BCC instructors will be added to teach more General Educational Development (GED) classes and A-OK classes, which combine adult basic skills instruction with career and technical education. A part-time carpentry instructor will become a full-time instructor.
Inmates will also need more cognitive training, she said. Barton employees will need more safety and security training as well.
Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman said the college is also working on a proposal to offer more training for correctional facility employees statewide.
“We are seen by the Department of Corrections as THE credible training provider for the State of Kansas,” Heilman said.
Simmons said later phases of the new initiative at Larned will include more vocational education classes.
“They want CDL training,” Simmons said. Computer Assisted Drafting, welding, masonry and plumbing could eventually be offered.
The college has had a presence at LCMHF for 16 years.
“For years, Barton College has enjoyed helping to meet the needs of students at the mental health facility,” said William Rains, coordinator of Correctional Education Services at the college. “Now, with the facility changing its mission to serve young men ages 18-25, we are thrilled to help them develop their skills to become outstanding members of our communities.”
“We’re excited and we’re going to work hard to serve this partner,” Simmons said. “It’s good for the system, for the state and for us.”
What won’t change
State officials said the 28-bed west unit at LCMHF will not be affected by this change and will continue to house minimum custody male inmates who are participating in programming and job assignments. Also unaffected will be the beds reserved at the Larned State Hospital for Kansas Department of Corrections inmates that need the level of care provided at the state hospital.
Barton will continue to serve Ellsworth Correctional Facility, Simmons said.