Brief Prison Stays

Brief Prison Stays

A law that allows brief jail stays for parole violations is getting mixed reviews from corrections officials and law enforcement agencies in Reno County, which has used the provision more than any other Kansas county.

The law enacted last July lets offenders avoid having their parole revoked if they spend a few days in jail. Reno County has made more use of the law than any other county per capita, Secretary of Corrections Ray Roberts said.

Roberts and other corrections officials say the law has helped reduce jail overcrowding, while some Reno County critics contend it is difficult to enforce and ineffective, The Hutchinson News reported.

The legislation allows judges to impose two- or three-day jail stays if an offender violates parole. If violations continue, judges can order a 120-day prison stay, followed by 180-day sentences. If the violations continue after that, offenders must serve the rest of their underlying prison sentences.

Since it was enacted, 37 people on probation have been ordered to serve either a 120- or 180-day prison sentence, and 24 served the two- or three-day sanctions in Reno County. Of the 37 who served the longer penalties, four had their probation revoked, Reno County Community Corrections Director Randy Regehr said.

“Overall, I think it is very successful, but time is going to tell,” Regehr said. “I think it’s going to be more effective with some people than other people. If they’ve already served a large amount of prison time in the past, it’s probably not going to be effective.”

Roberts said Kansas correctional facilities are currently housing about 100 people over their limits, but he expects that number to decrease as more parole violators avoid longer sentences.

“By the end of fiscal year 2015, we will be 100 under capacity. If you look at where we were a year ago in terms of offenders coming in, sanctions, we think, are helping,” Roberts said.

Reno County Deputy District Attorney Tom Stanton said he supports the idea behind the law, but he contends it causes a revolving door at jails, and even offenders who have to complete their underlying sentences aren’t behind bars for long. Every offender in Reno County sent to complete a 120- or 180-day sanction was dismissed within 100 days.

“There is a culture that has developed here that you really don’t have to worry about going to prison until at least your third filed violation,” he said. “We’re just warehousing them. They’re not there long enough to engage them in any of the programs or services (in prison). It’s just another way to delay the inevitable in some of these cases.”

He said one-year sanctions work best, particularly in drug cases, because it gives offenders time to recover from addictions and receive services.