Nomin Ujiyediin | KCUR

Nomin Ujiyediin

Kansas News Service Reporter

Nomin is a reporter at the Kansas News Service covering prisons, jails, law enforcement and the legal system.

Prior to joining the news service, Nomin produced All Things Considered at WNYC in New York City and was a host, producer and reporter at KGOU in Norman, Oklahoma. She has an MA from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, where she focused on urban reporting, radio and photography. She also has a BA from Rutgers University. Nomin was a Knight CUNYJ fellow in 2015, and an AIR New Voice fellow in 2017.

In her spare time, Nomin lifts weights, plays video games and tries to contain her bad New Jersey attitude.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — One solution to Kansas prisons’ woes could come with a $35 million price tag for three new specialty prisons.

The state’s corrections system only treats half of its inmates who struggle with substance abuse. And as some people serve decades-long sentences, the system finds itself home to more elderly prisoners who need special care as they age.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

When Dan Hoyt started graduate school at the University of Kansas in 2016, he knew he had anxiety and depression. He worried about being able to find a job after graduation. And, sometimes, he couldn’t get through his assigned reading.

“When you have anxieties, that gets impossible,” he said. “I'll think about the same things over and over and over again.”

But when he reached out to KU’s counseling services, he was told he had to wait five months before he could get an appointment with a therapist at the Lawrence campus. And getting there from KU’s Overland Park campus, where he took classes, complicated things.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Holes punched in walls. Car headlights smashed. Windows broken. Weapons, threats, sexual comments. Children who can’t live with other children. Children whom foster parents won’t take in. Children who aren’t able to get the mental health care they desperately need.

Kansas foster care contractors and parents say all of these situations have become more common — and more risky — since 2017, when the state made sweeping changes to the juvenile justice system. The changes, they say, removed options for dealing with foster children who have high needs and violent behaviors.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Updated Nov. 15 with statement from the governor: Attorneys for Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly have asked a federal court to remove her from a class-action lawsuit over the state’s troubled foster care program, arguing that she doesn’t actually oversee the system.

The move comes as parents and advocates say that the system continues to traumatize the thousands of children in its care.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Kansans reported more sexual assaults, domestic violence and stalking to the police in 2018, according to a report from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

Compared to the previous year, it’s a 6% increase in domestic violence incidents, a 9% increase in rapes and a 27% increase in stalking incidents.

But the numbers don’t necessarily reflect an increase in those crimes being committed, KBI spokeswoman Melissa Underwood said.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — When it comes to medical marijuana, Kansas may end up looking more like Ohio than Missouri — with edibles and topicals only, no smoking.

The Special Committee on Federal and State Affairs recommended potential regulations on Wednesday for the 2020 legislative session, which starts in January. It’s far from the first time the legislature would consider medical marijuana: The Kansas Health Institute says 18 bills have been introduced since 2006.

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach agreed to legal sanctions to resolve a disciplinary complaint about his conduct in a voting rights case he lost last year.

As part of the resulting diversion agreement made public Monday, Kobach admitted that he did not properly supervise lawyers and others on his staff while contesting a lawsuit that challenged how he carried out a new voter ID law.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Maria Galvan used to make about $25,000 a year. She didn’t qualify for welfare, but she still had trouble meeting her basic needs.

“I would just be working just to be poor and broke,” she said. “It would be so frustrating.”

When things got bad, the single mother and Topeka resident took out a payday loan. That meant borrowing a small amount of money at a high interest rate, to be paid off as soon as she got her next check.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Even though it’s the offseason, Kansas Rep. Rui Xu says being a legislator is a full-time job.

Over the course of a week, on top of his part-time gig as a freelance marketer, the Democrat spends 20 to 30 hours meeting with constituents in Johnson County, going to events, working on legislation or helping city council candidates run for office.

Xu isn’t paid for that work. Like every other member of the Kansas Legislature, he only draws a salary from the state during the legislative session, from about January to May. This year, his first in office, he got $19,300.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

The Kansas Board of Regents voted Wednesday to change the benchmarks for in-state students to attend the state’s six public universities, and class-rank requirements are out.

The move is meant to increase the number of Kansas high schoolers who are eligible to attend Kansas State University, Emporia State University, Pittsburg State University, Fort Hays State University, Wichita State University and the University of Kansas. 

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Mold. No heat in the winter. Leaking roofs.

The most common complaints Teresa Baker hears about rental housing in Kansas revolve around poor living conditions that violate state law.

Wikimedia

This story was updated at 10 a.m. on Sept. 12, 2019, to reflect comments from the Bureau of Prisons.

The federal Bureau of Prisons will provide opioid addiction treatment for a prisoner at the Leavenworth penitentiary, according to a settlement reached Wednesday.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA — One of the United States’ largest and oldest private prison companies will house up to 600 Kansas inmates in a facility in Eloy, Arizona.

CoreCivic, formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America, owns and operates 129 prisons, immigration detention centers and other facilities in more than 20 states, including the Leavenworth Detention Center. Its revenues total more than $1 billion a year.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Kansas will send 360 of its male prisoners to a privately owned and operated prison in Eloy, Arizona, starting this summer.

The Kansas Department of Corrections announced Friday that it had finalized a contract with CoreCivic to move up to 600 people to Saguaro Correctional Center. The prison is about one hour southeast of Phoenix and about a 12-hour drive from the southwestern corner of Kansas.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Susan Haynes used to have panic attacks seven times a day.

Sometimes, she would fall out of her chair. Sometimes, she would stop breathing.

“I could just fall down, just collapse and look like I was having a seizure or stroke,” she said. “It was pretty scary.”

Walter / Creative Commons 2.0

TOPEKA — Courtney Train spends her days going to nail salons, the pool and the dog park.

As a paid mentor and advocate for children ages 8 to 18 who’ve seen domestic violence at home or experienced it while dating, Train knows quality time — and fun — with a trusted adult can be in short supply for her clients.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

“A Clockwork Orange.” “Invisible Man.” “Twelve Years a Slave.” 

Issues of Bloomberg Businessweek, Us Weekly, Elle.

“Excel 2016 for Dummies.” “Tarot Fundamentals.” “Electrical Theory.”

Over the past 15 years, the Kansas Department of Corrections banned those titles, and about 7,000 others, from its prisons across the state.

Creative Commons-CC0

The state spending review panel is freeing up some of the money the Kansas Department of Corrections asked for to place inmates in county jails and private facilities. Prison officials say it’s a last resort.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) 

With trees shredded into tinder and homes ripped asunder, scores of families in and around Lawrence and Linwood, Kansas, surveyed lives that forever will be marked by the time before and after Tuesday’s tornado.

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

When it comes to marijuana, Kansas is a red state in an increasingly green country.

Three of its neighbors — Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri — have legalized some form of the drug in recent years. Yet Kansas remains one of four states in the country without a comprehensive medical or recreational marijuana program.

Jobs For Felons Hub / CC BY 2.0

Kansas may soon turn to private contractors to take the overflow from its crowded prisons, raising questions about growing costs and the reliability of for-profit jails.

That plan ran into complications over the weekend when lawmakers insisted on a closer review from a state commission to OK some of the line-by-line spending. But taxpayers could soon be spending almost $36 million more to deal with a range of problems in the prison system.

B. Jamie / Public domain

Almost half the people locked up in Kansas prisons admit they have a history of domestic violence — getting the cops called after an argument with a partner, having a restraining order against them or serving time for beating or threatening a family member or partner.

Some of those people end up in batterer intervention programs — sometimes while they’re behind bars, other times during probation or parole. The weekly workshops stretch over months, aiming to pinpoint what drives someone to violence, and searching for ways to break those cycles.

Anna Langova / Public domain

 

A new law standardizing Kansas’ response to child-on-child sexual assault could cost $126,000 and result in more than 3,200 treatment referrals a year.

Gov. Laura Kelly signed legislation Friday that directs the Department for Children and Families to immediately refer a minor to treatment if the agency receives a report that the child sexually abused another child.

William Johnson / U.S. Air Force Photo

Ruslan Ivanov loved being a public defender. What he didn’t love was the way his work constantly followed him — at home, with friends and family, even on vacation.

On one trip to Colorado, he stood in front of a breathtaking mountain view. And started thinking about a case.

Camilo Rueda Lopez / (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Social workers can perform a myriad of tasks. Some check on children in abusive homes and some train foster families. Others support patients through medical procedures like kidney dialysis or provide talk therapy to mental health patients.

But there are too few of them in Kansas.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

A Kansas activist known for her work on transgender issues has died. Stephanie Mott, 61, was a mental health clinician, LGBTQ advocate and prolific public speaker who traveled the country to share her experiences as a transgender Christian woman. 

Mott served as the vice chair of Equality Kansas, chaired the LGBTQ caucus of the Kansas Democrats and founded the Kansas Statewide Transgender Equality Project.

Pixabay / Creative Commons

Bills on drug sentencing, probation and marijuana possession stalled in the Kansas Legislature this year. Instead, lawmakers continue to consider appointing a task force to address the criminal justice system as a whole.

Michael Coghlan / Creative Commons-Flickr

The company hired to provide health care in Kansas prisons is getting paid millions less than its contracted amount after failing to meet the agreement’s terms.

State officials reduced payments to Corizon Health because the company failed to hire enough nurses and other health workers. Corizon lost additional money after audits found it fell short of performance standards for a range of medical services.

Now, the Kansas Department of Corrections says the contractor has one more year to look after the health of 10,000 people in its prisons.

Chris Neal of Shooter Imaging / Kansas News Service

After recruiting only three teachers in Kansas last year, nonprofit Teach For America is asking lawmakers for a quarter of a million dollars to continue working for the state.

In 2018, legislators appropriated $520,000 for Teach For America to recruit 12 teachers.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Hunter Defenbaugh loves working in prison.

Five nights a week, the 19-year-old corrections officer works overnight shifts in the infirmary at El Dorado Correctional Facility 30 miles northeast of Wichita. He checks on sick inmates, gives them blankets, calls nurses for help.

Defenbaugh likes the job, he says, because he likes helping people. It beats his old gigs flipping burgers at McDonald’s or ringing up customers at Walmart.

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