Central Kansas Community Corrections Director Amy Boxberger proudly touts her agency’s success at keeping offenders from returning to prison, but said she is fearful of what the future holds.
Boxberger’s comments came as the Barton County Commission Monday morning approved the CKCC’s Fiscal Year 2018 Comprehensive Plan submission, what amounts to a grant request for the agency’s budget.
“Philosophies of intensive supervision have been challenged throughout all levels of the district,” she said, “But in the end the support throughout the service area is the same: We want to live in a safer community with offenders who are held accountable for their actions, learning from their mistakes and establishing a pattern of pro-social decisions.”
The Kansas Department of Corrections requires submission of an annual plan. As the administrative county for the 20th Judicial District, Barton County’s commission must to review and approve it.
The fiscal year 2017 budget of $530,771 is $30,000 more than last year. This reverses a recent trend of funding cuts.
In order to be eligible for KDOC funding, community corrections must maintain a recidivism rate of 25 percent or lower. This means that out of every 100 offenders, only 25 or fewer can return to prison.
Boxberger is proud to say this judicial district has met this goal. In FY16 there were 135 offenders closed by the Court and 79 offenders, or 77 percent, didn’t enter the prison system, and 31 offenders, or 23 percent, did.
CKCC serves the 20th Judicial District, encompassing Barton, Ellsworth, Rice, Russell and Stafford counties.
An uncertain future
“I am concerned about this fiscal year,” Boxberger said, referring to the potential impacts from the 2013 Justice Reinvestment Act in FY2018. That legislation allowed offenders to spend “short dips” of 60 to 180 days in prison for probation violations instead of having their probation revoked.
The idea was to help reduce the state’s burgeoning prison populations, but, “prison doesn’t fix anyone,” Boxberger said. She fears even these short incarcerations will leave their mark, hurting efforts to reintegrate the person back into society.
She has had offenders tell her these “short dips” are like going to college, but there are no positive role models and they are around like-minded people. “They end up having fun.”
With the stigma of prison removed, Boxberger believes offenders who are already at a higher risk of going to jail may be more likely to re-offend. This goes against everything she and her peers work for.
According Boxberger, revocation rates for offenders who serve a KDOC prison sanction have increased 133 percent since FY14. In the past few years, CKCC’s average daily population has increased, which has brought a higher number of agency discharges and more people who have experienced a KDOC prison sanction.
Each year since the law went into effect there has been a consistent increase of revocations, she said. “KDOC prison sanctions have negatively impacted the likelihood of successfully completing community corrections for most offenders who are ordered to serve the sanction.”
Revocation rates for offenders who had previously served a KDOC prison sanction are: FY2014, 33 percent; FY2015, 45 percent; FY2016, 60 percent; and as of March 13, 2017, revocation rates for the prison-sanctioned offenders have reached 77 percent for FY2017.
All about relationships
“We hope they become successful and productive citizens,” she said. This is less costly than keeping them in prison, makes the community safer and helps break the endless recidivism cycle.
But, Boxberger knows the hill is steep and often the work is unpopular. Offenders see CKCC as the authority, and society sometimes sees CKCC as trying to keep offenders from paying for their crimes.
“Relationships are key,” she said. This is about building bonds with offenders and helping them get the education, counseling and information they need to get a job and support themselves.
To this end, the commission Monday also approved Boxberger’s applying for a Central Kansas Community Corrections Behavioral Health Grant for $73,000 from the KDOC.
Funding would be used to contract with the Heartland Regional Alcohol and Drug Assessment Center for a care coordinator and recovery coach for the 20th Judicial District. Services would include assessment, referrals and assistance in creating a recovery lifestyle.
“We’re not going to sacrifice public safety,” Boxberger said.
CKCC is going to continue to seek community support, find other partnerships, bring in new programs and evaluate successes, she said.