Facts and Policy Reforms for Kansas
Like most states, Kansas’ prison population has exploded in recent decades.
Since 1980, the Kansas prison population has nearly quadrupled. As of 2017, 9,803 people were imprisoned in Kansas — a 12 percent increase since 2000. While many other states have downsized their prison systems, Kansas has expanded its prison capacity by nearly 20 percent between 2000 and 2017 to accommodate such rapid growth.
Non-violent offenses dominate new prison admissions in Kansas. Roughly 70 percent of people sent to prison in 2015 were imprisoned for an offense that did not include violence, including 17 percent and 11 percent imprisoned for drug possession and drug trafficking, respectively. Due in part to harsh sentencing requirements, drug offenses contributed to nearly one-third of all admissions to Kansas prisons in 2015.
Unsurprisingly, Kansas’ mass incarceration crisis has had an enormous impact on people of color, especially Black people. As of 2014, the per capita imprisonment rate for Black people in Kansas was the 14th highest in the country. In 2016, Black people constituted 30 percent of the prison population, but only 6 percent of the state population. Ending mass incarceration is a critical — although insufficient — step towards addressing racial disparities in Kansas’ criminal justice system as well as its broader society.
Women are also being sent to prison in Kansas at alarming rates. Over the past decade, the number of women in Kansas prisons has grown at three times the rate of men. In 2017, more than half of the women imprisoned had been convicted of an offense not involving violence, and 38 percent had been convicted of a drug offense.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Kansas can dramatically reduce its prison population by implementing just a few sensible reforms:
- Reclassifying low-level offenses as misdemeanors rather than felonies.
- Increasing investment in substance treatment programs.
- Increasing the availability of good time credits to ensure that reduced time is a possibility for more incarcerated people.
- Reforming mandatory minimum and severe sentencing enhancement laws.
- Promoting alternatives to incarceration like substance abuse treatment, mental health care, and other programs.
If Kansas were to follow these and other reforms in this Smart Justice 50-State Blueprint, by 2025 it could have 4,894 fewer people in its prison system, saving over $280 million that could be invested in schools, services, and other resources that would strengthen communities.
For more information, along with detailed breakdowns of Kansas’ prison population and the reforms needed to reduce it, click here.