LARNED – Secretary of Corrections Ray Roberts said his favorite part of his job is visiting the employees who serve the Kansas Department of Corrections.
Wednesday’s visit to the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility (LCMHF) coincided with an Employee Recognition Day. He also visited the Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility Wednesday.
“I want our staff to know that what they do is important,” he said. “Our employee staff is our most important resource. If our staff is happy and they have the resources they need to do their job, they will impact offenders’ lives in a positive way, which is our goal.”
Roberts said work done in correctional facilities is not well known by the general public.
“The public doesn’t see what they do on a daily basis,” he said. “The public does not understand the service you provide for the state of Kansas. You make a difference every day.”
LCMHF Employees of the Year recognized Wednesday were Tevye Sturtz, corrections specialist, Uniform Employee; Pamela Delp, senior administrative assistant, Non-Uniformed Employee; Roy Spray, mental health professional, Contract Employee; and Deacon Gilbert Rael, Volunteer of the Year.
Roberts said the contribution of volunteers, who provide their own expertise, are an invaluable support for facilities such as LCMHF. He said those volunteers who deliver educational, mentoring and Bible-based studies are a building block for offenders.
“Larned and Pawnee County has been particularly supportive of the Larned facilities in many ways,” he said. “They are unselfish ambassadors who help the offenders learn life skills. It is important to recognize the volunteers who help in the management of each facility. They provide stability in working with offenders.”
As secretary of corrections, Roberts said part of his responsibility is to visit various locations and understand exactly what employees at each building do.
“When I go out, it’s important to be visible and approachable,” he said. “I enjoy visiting our officers to see what is happening at our facilities. How we spend our time is important and I want to see how staff is being a positive influence for offenders.”
Work with offenders who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses is an important element for LCMHF. Roberts said he’s seen statistics that indicate more offenders will need future counseling for diagnosis of mental illnesses.
“It’s very important to play strategies for the future,” he said. “We want to do everything we can to help offenders when they re-enter society. We want to do everything we can to help them become more productive and better citizens.”
Roberts said Kansas will launch a prisoner re-entry movement “Out4Life,” Monday and Tuesday at the Hilton Wichita Airport in Wichita. The project is a joint effort by Prison Fellowship with Kansas government and community leaders. Kansas is the 14th state to launch Out4Life.
“The initiative will assign mentors to offenders,” he said. “The mentor can serve as a friend, someone who will be a role model and a moral and ethical compass.”
Roberts said the mentoring system would complement the parole system by establishing another positive connection.
“This will help connect them with someone who can provide guidance,” he said. “The only way we’re going to make progress is with community support.”
Kansas has about 40,000 inmates in prison at an annual cost of $341 million. Roberts said 95 percent of them will eventually be released. The group reports that 43 percent of those ex-inmates will return to prison within three years for a new crime or a parole violation.