Kansas lawmakers are working to reduce the state’s prison population and costs, but parallel legislation to toughen penalties could stymie their efforts.
The Kansas Sentencing Commission has submitted bills to the Legislature that would free up 150 beds in state prisons and save $3.6 million. One measure would keep offenders out of prison on their first two marijuana possession convictions. Another would allow some prisoners to get out of jail earlier for good behavior.
Kansas’ prisons are already over capacity and their populations are growing. Furthermore, the state faces a projected budget shortfall of almost $600 million for the next fiscal year.
But the Legislature is also considering bills to lengthen sentences for drunk driving, home burglary and scrap theft. These could nullify the effect of the sentencing commission’s efforts.