Restoration of $6 million sweep bolsters youth justice reform

Emily Fetsch
June 3, 2019

As the legislative session ends, the state budget is often one of the last items on the agenda for lawmakers before they head back to their communities. One of the remaining items facing the budget committee this year was whether to return money to the Juvenile Justice Evidence-Based Reinvestment Fund.

In a proactive move, the budget passed by the legislature returned this money to the fund, which helps the state continue progress made for the youth justice system.

In 2016, lawmakers saw the opportunity to improve the system in the state, reducing youth incarceration and increasing savings. As a result, policymakers passed Senate Bill 367, which codified these improvements to the youth justice system. To fund these changes, legislators transferred money to create the Juvenile Justice Evidence-Based Reinvestment Fund in the State General Fund. The purpose of this fund was to use the initial investment, plus the savings created by the reduction of incarceration, to invest in community-based alternatives to youth incarceration.

In the 2018 legislative session, $6 million was taken from the Juvenile Justice Evidence-Based Reinvestment Fund and moved to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The repurposing of these funds did not honor the original intent of the Evidence Based Programs Account. At the time, KCEG argued that “Kansas should not move backward by misappropriating funds intended specifically for funding programs known to be effective in reducing recidivism.” In addition, we were concerned that this transfer took place without the notification or approval of the Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee, which is tasked with monitoring the fund.

Luckily, at the end of the 2019 legislative session, the budget committee returned the $6 million to the Juvenile Justice Evidence-Based Reinvestment Fund.

From the Kansas Legislature: “On the effective date of this act, the $6,000,000 appropriated for the above agency for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, by section 68(a) of chapter 109 of the 2018 Session Laws of Kansas from the state general fund in the evidence based juvenile programs account, is hereby lapsed.”  

Returning the money to the Juvenile Justice Evidence-Based Reinvestment Fund means our state can continue to reduce incarceration among youth and redirect those savings into more effective and community-based programs. Our state is already seeing the positive results of SB 367 and the reinvestment, with the out-of-home youth population dropping by 63 percent between 2015 and 2018.

Kansas is on the path toward developing a more effective youth justice system, capitalizing on the 2016 legislation and by correcting last session’s misallocation of funds. To continue to improve, the state must ensure proper oversight and evaluation, by guaranteeing all funds from the Juvenile Justice Evidence-Based Reinvestment Fund be monitored and approved by the Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee.

Emily Fetsch is the Kansas Center for Economic Growth’s director of policy and research.

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