KCUR News
2:45 pm
Thu August 18, 2011

Johnson County Prison Program Gets High Praise From National Consultants

Johnson County, Kansas – Experts from The Justice Center of The Council of State Governments in New York, and The Criminal Justice Institute in Boston, were in Johnson County this week talking with administrators of an innovative inmate- reentry program.

The consultants say the Johnson County program is becoming a national model.

Here's how it works. Within 90 days of a release date, certain inmates in adult detention are transferred to a residential treatment center. Remaining under the supervision of the Sheriff's office and a case manager, he or she receives various kinds of support such as substance abuse or mental health counseling, career counseling, or vocational training. The goal- to help overcome risks that will likely land that individual back in jail.

Sheriff Frank Denning says recidivism rates are as high as 87% in Johnson County, and it can cost up to 115 dollars per inmate, per day, to incarcerate one individual.

Building more jails, he says, isn't the answer; " If they have no jobs, if they don't know how to take care of their finances, they will go right back to doing what they have done."

Denning says inmates are evaluated by a set of objective criteria, and only those most at risk of returning to jail are eligible for the program.

In an effort to offset concern the sheriff may be getting "soft on crime," Denning says certain felons and sex crimes offenders are ineligible for the program.