By Jim Misunas
LARNED — The Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility would be affected by a proposed reorganization order during the 2013 Kansas Legislative session that would merge the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority with the Kansas Department of Corrections.
Governor Sam Brownback has proposed the executive reorganation order as a safety and security measure. A lesgislative post audit report in July indicated safety and security issues at the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex in Topeka.
There are about 1,500 juveniles currently under JJA custody. About 220 male and 20 female juvenile offenders are housed at the KJCC in Topeka. The Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility is currently averaging 126 juveniles. Mira Vucicevic serves as LJCF superintendent and Wendy Leiker serves as deputy superintendent. State law allows youth from ages 10 to 23 to be in JJA custody.
“Moving JJA to KDOC will increase the emphasis on safety while continuing to provide programs proven to get our youth back on the right path. The audit clearly shows that for their safety, security, and well-being, juvenile offenders must be served by a professional corrections agency,” Brownback said. “My administration looks forward to working with the Kansas Legislature on this long term solution to the issues at JJA.”
Brownback said the post audit report highlighted how the decades-old approach of a social services focus taken by policy makers and previous administrations failed to provide the safety and security that juvenile offenders require and deserve.
KDOC Secretary Ray Roberts believes a KDOC/JJA consolidation will provide opportunities to strengthen public safety, build upon successes realized through a minimal administrative consolidation of functions two years ago, and provide for the unique needs of these two populations.
“While there are some distinct differences in program needs and management strategies for juveniles, and we will continue the rehabilitation of the juvenile population, it is imperative that basic safety and security practices are routinely employed in correctional environments,” Sec. Roberts said. “Steps have been taken to improve the quality of juvenile corrections through the capable leadership of Terri Williams and support from the KDOC. A consolidation will make both agencies stronger and better equipped to provide comprehensive corrections in the state of Kansas.”
Brownback said the executive reorganization order would establish Terri Williams, acting JJA commissioner, as deputy secretary of juvenile services.
“With a broader base, we can focus on the work necessary to make the Kansas juvenile justice system to promote public safety through sound correctional practices and reduce recidivism through the provision of well researched, evidence-based services,” Williams said. “The youth, families, staff, and citizens of the state of Kansas deserve nothing less.”
Once the Governor introduces the ERO to the Kansas Legislature, lawmakers will have 60 calendar days to consider it. If neither legislative chamber rejects the ERO, it will go into effect on July 1, 2013.
The Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority is a cabinet level criminal justice agency that started operating July 1, 1997. Individuals as young as ten years of age and as old as 17 years of age may be adjudicated as juvenile offenders and ordered into the custody of the JJA. The JJA may retain custody of a juvenile offender to the age of 23.
The JJA leads a broad-based state and local, public and private partnership to provide the state’s comprehensive juvenile justice system. This includes prevention and intervention programs, community-based graduated sanctions and juvenile correctional facilities.