Students at Bethany College had the opportunity to participate in a prison reform forum this week.
According to the school, a panel of speakers held the forum on prison reform on the Bethany campus. The panel consisted of:
- Stephen Owens – Kansas state representative
- Captain Arlo Blevins – McPherson County Jail supervisor
- David Harder – defense attorney, Kansas Prison Reform Committee
- Rick Comfort – public defender, Saline County
- Brad Sutton – prosecutor, Saline County
- Julie Effenbeck – defense attorney
- Bobbie Bradbury – Community Corrections Intensive Supervisor, Saline County
- Doug Lawson – Warden at Ellsworth Prison
- David Villanueva – Salina Police Department, Adjunct Professor
- Rande Repp – Criminal Justice Department Chair at Bethany College, retired Salina Police Department
- Will Jones – facilitator of John Maxwell program teaching person growth skills through a prison ministry program at Ellsworth Prison
The panel was moderated by Anna Jumpponen, adjunct professor at Bethany College and prosecuting attorney with the Harvey County Attorney’s Office. Prior to working with Harvey County, Anna was a prosecuting attorney for the Saline County Attorney’s Office.
The two-hour forum discussion touched upon many topics including sentencing guidelines, capital punishment, mental health, substance abuse, and post-release supervision. Some of the special needs identified by the panel include lack of funding and resources in lesser-populated counties, primarily in remote areas of the state; the need for better post-release employment and housing opportunities once an inmate has completed their sentence, and the need for better mental health and substance abuse screening in conjunction with alternative sanctions.
Students of Bethany’s criminal justice program attended the form as part of their classwork and asked many questions of the panel.
Students were curious about the impact of marijuana legalization on neighboring states and asked about the potential for decriminalization within the state of Kansas. Panel members noted how the price of a pound of methamphetamine has dropped from around $13,000 a decade ago to only $3,000 today. Kansas’ pseudoephedrine laws have helped significantly decrease the amount of methamphetamine being manufactured locally, but it is being imported in bulk by Mexican drug cartels. It was observed that Kansas looks to federal guidelines for drug statutes, and that full marijuana legalization would probably not occur quickly in Kansas unless it was first decriminalized at the federal level.