AG Lauds New Drug-Treatment Specialty Prison

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is praising members of the Legislature for approving funding for a new drug-treatment specialty prison.

According to the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, the budget passed Friday contains $6 million to convert a building at the Lansing Correctional Facility to a new 240-bed minimum-security prison dedicated to housing certain inmates whose criminal misbehavior is determined to be the result of addiction to drugs or alcohol. Some of those funds also will be used to renovate a building at the Winfield Correctional Facility for geriatric inmates.

“Funding this groundbreaking drug-treatment facility is a bold step toward meaningful criminal justice reform that can make our communities safer by more effectively working to break the cycle of addiction that is at the root of so much repeated criminal misbehavior,” Schmidt said. “This is a smart new effort that is long overdue, and the broad support it has received is encouraging and to be commended.”

Schmidt has advocated to build a dedicated drug-treatment prison for more than a decade. The legislature first funded such a facility in 2007, and the project at that time got as far as the architectural design before construction was canceled by the Legislature and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in 2009 because of the economic downturn. In 2019, when the state’s current Criminal Justice Reform Commission began its work, Schmidt again presented the idea, and it was adopted as a Commission recommendation. The Legislature in 2020 again funded the project, but Gov. Laura Kelly canceled the funding last summer amid the economic disruption caused by COVID-19. Now the Legislature has once again funded the project.

“I’m hopeful this will be the year that not only will the funding again be signed into law, but also this much-needed project will receive actual follow through and become a reality,” Schmidt said.

More than 80% of all inmates – by some accounts, significantly more – have substance abuse disorders. Schmidt has argued for years that the most meaningful criminal justice reforms would expand substance abuse treatment and mental health interventions, the two top motivators of criminal activity in our communities. The new drug-treatment prison will be designed to provide additional options along the spectrum of interventions, filling a gap between community-based treatment and the placing of addicts who have committed crimes with the general prison population.

“This specialty facility will add a missing piece to our overall system of corrections,” Schmidt said. “It provides an option for judges and others in the criminal-justice system between leaving offenders in the community to receive drug treatment or locking them in with the general population in a regular prison.”

Special criminal sentencing rules designed to target certain inmates for intensive drug treatment while in prison have been on the books for more than a decade, but they never have been used because the special sentences they require are to be served in a specialized drug-treatment prison – which so far has never been built. K.S.A. 21-6804 and K.S.A. 21-6805 specifically authorize courts to impose special sentences on offenders who are addicts, and K.S.A. 8-1567 does the same for certain crimes of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.