By hearing the testimony of local offenders who have either completed or are still completing their involvement with Central Kansas Community Corrections, Barton County Commissioners Wednesday morning got a glimpse into the success of a program designed to keep folks from entering prison, as well as the challenges it faces.
“I am an addict,” Cory Little told the commission. “I’ve been in trouble since I was in high school.”
He has had stints in county and state jails. “I have been in and out of the system.”
Little had been given multiple chances to turn his life around, but realized something while sitting in a jail cell. “If I don’t want to change, I’m not going to change.”
Now, Little is a successful completer of the 20th Judicial District Community Corrections program and is president of the men’s Oxford House Hope Central. “It’s made be a better citizen.”
Joy Wetig told a similar tale. “I’ve been an addict since I was 15,” she said.
Starting out as a rebellious teenager, Wetig landed in prison, but refused to change. “I bucked the system,” she said.
But, she too had an epiphany. Wetig had spent a lot of time behind bars when she realized she wanted more.
“Since then, I’ve done what I can to get my life in order,” she said. “What changed was me.”
Each speaker met with a round of applause. “I personally want to congratulate you,” Commissioner Kenny Schremmer.
“I was an alcoholic at one time,” commission Chairman Don Davis said, adding he had an idea what they two were going through. “Sometimes you have to change your friends list.”
Little and Wetig told their stories after the commission had signed off on CKCC’s fiscal year 2016 outcomes and OKed the agency’s grant application for 2017.
The Kansas Community Corrections Act provides grants to Kansas counties to develop and maintain a range of programs for adult offenders assigned to community corrections agencies. A comprehensive plan, which amounts to a grant application that includes the state-set goals, was submitted.
The year-end outcomes then sets out the results at the close of the year which ends in June. These require the review and approval of the Barton County Commissioners, as the administrative county for the 20th Judicial District which includes Barton, Ellsworth, Rice, Russell and Stafford counties.
“We met that and exceed it,” CKCC Director Amy Boxberger said. “That is a good outcome for us.”
Boxberger said their first goal was by June 30, 2015, CKCC would achieve and maintain a supervision success rate of at least 75 percent. In 2014, 78 percent cases were closed without entering the Kansas Prison System and 22 percent entered the correctional facilities.
One of their objectives was to maintain revocation rates of no more than 25 percent. In FY2016, there were 135 offenders discharged from CKCC. Thirty-one offenders, or 23 percent, were revoked and entered into the prison system while 102 offenders, or 77 percent, did not.
CKCC also wanted to provide opportunities for moderate- to high-risk offenders to attend cognitive behavioral groups in at least two counties three times per year. The Substance Abuse Program have been offered in Barton and Rice County.
“It continues to be a challenge to keep offenders engaged in the long program and conflicting with other court ordered interventions such as drug/alcohol treatment,” she said.
In addition, CKCC wanted 70 percent of the participants in the SAP group to successfully complete the curriculum. These have been offered in Barton County having 14 participants and Rice County having eight participants.
Barton County had seven participants graduate from the program while three participants completed in Rice County. CKCC did not meet the goal in this area.
It is also a challenge to keep offenders involved in a program that sometimes conflicts with other court-ordered interventions, she said.
CKCC’s final objective was to have 75 percent of all offender/officer interactions reflecting Effective Practices for Community Supervision (EPICS) in case management to effectuate positive change.
Boxberger facilitated monthly EPICS discussions in staff meetings and set up homework “work stations” to have SAP curriculum in each meeting room for easy access to homework.
“This year presented many challenges with high caseloads,” she said. Starting the year, the agency was fully staffed with six intensive supervision officers and the director supervising an average daily population of 264.5 in five counties.
“There were critically high caseloads throughout the middle of the year due to staff turnover and training the replacement,” she said. “This severely impacted the previously set outcomes.”
To help rectify this, Boxbeger said she would abandoned formal audits to work on development of the EPICS case management practices with the Kansas Department of Corrections rather than the appearance of punitive audits.
However, “now we are fully staffed,” Boxbeger said.