By Jonathan Shorman
LARNED -- Kansas will close a western Kansas juvenile correctional facility, leaving Topeka as the only location in the state for juveniles.
The Kansas Department of Corrections said Thursday it will shutter its Larned juvenile facility during the next year, citing dropping inmate populations. The monthly average number of prisoners has fallen by 30 percent since 2010, the agency said.
A spokesman for KDOC was unable to speak about the financial effects of closing and the facility and how much money the state may potentially save. The facility employs about 140 full-time workers, Adam Pfannenstiel said.
The agency will strive to allow the workers to continue to work for the state, the agency said. Current inmates won’t be moved, Pfannenstiel said, adding that a large number will age out.
Correction secretary Joe Norwood said public safety would remain a top priority while the agency works to provide a smooth transition to youth and staff. The Larned facility only houses male inmates, while Topeka houses both male and female prisoners.
“There are no plans to move any youth currently at the LJCF,” Norwood said in a statement. “Over the next 12 months, I will ensure that every LJCF employee is afforded an opportunity to continue their employment with the state of Kansas.”
The closure, announced late Thursday, is raising concerns in Larned. William Nusser, mayor of the city of about 4,000, worried that people working management positions at the facility may have a difficult time transferring to other jobs.
Nusser also expressed concern that dropping inmate populations could affect public safety.
“It makes you a little nervous, not just for the community but for the state,” Nusser said.
Rebecca Proctor, director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees — a union that represents some workers at the facility — said the facility’s location in Larned may ease the way for some employees to take other jobs with the state. Larned also is home to a state mental hospital and adult mental health correctional facility.
At the same time, she said some employees work at their particular facility for a reason. Some who are comfortable working with juveniles may not want to work with adult prisoners, she said.