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criminal justice

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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.

Katie Moore / Kansas City Star

This story has been updated and clarified with quotes from Presiding Judge David Byrn from the court transcript.

New security measures at the Jackson County Detention Center are causing some controversy after female attorneys complained they are required to remove their underwire bras in order to enter. 

In a tweet Monday, Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forté called this "misinformation," saying that "no one was asked to take off underwire bras."

Seg. 1: Transforming American Prosecution | Seg. 2: Where Were You?

May 14, 2019

Segment 1: District attorneys' exercise of power has affected mass incarceration and convicted the innocent. 

The United States is the only country in the world that elects its prosecutors who can exert greater influence over criminal cases than judges. The author of "Charged" explained that while these prosecutors can be the "cause of enormous injustice" the pendulum may be swinging the other way as voters are putting more reform-minded candidates in office.

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.

Joe Robertson / Local Investment Commission

Having a criminal record can make it hard to find a job, and a place to live. Missouri allows some offenses to be erased from a person’s record, or expunged, years after an offender has finished serving his or her sentence, but it’s a tricky process.

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.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Late at night in February 2017, Samuel Gillis Jr. drove his SUV to Hope City, a community center at East 24th and Quincy that feeds the homeless and provides services for drug addicts.

Gillis was drunk, so he doesn’t remember what happened next. But according to Kansas City, Missouri, police, Gillis got out of his SUV and punched a man who worked there three times, breaking his nose badly enough to require two surgeries.

Eddie Lowery

Eddie Lowery was a soldier stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas, in 1982, when he was sentenced to 11-years to-life in prison after being convicted of aggravated rape, assault and burglary.

He had not committed the crime.

"You’re just wondering why this happens to you. Why?" Lowery says. "Why didn't the system protect you when you’re in the interrogation room telling them you’re innocent?"

Segment 1: A Kansas bill aims to make the state the nation's first to check new-case DNA evidence with connection to closed cases.  

Currently, biological evidence from current crimes is not investigated when it produces a hit in the DNA database on a case that already has a conviction. Kansas lawmakers want to audit what's happening when those hits arise and the potential to help exonerate innocent people. 

Robert Sauls

Before getting into the Missouri House, Democrat Robert Sauls was a prosecutor, a public defender and a military lawyer. Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that he has focused on criminal justice reform in his first term, cosponsoring bills that seek to change sentencing laws and create special veterans treatment courts.

Sauls spoke with Statehouse Blend Missouri host Brian Ellison about life as a newbie legislator, and where he thinks the state budget, which is advancing through the General Assembly, falls short.

A Missouri House committee has approved major changes to the state’s criminal justice system, including giving judges more leeway in nonviolent crime sentencing.

The action Thursday by the House Special Committee on Criminal Justice is just the first step in what its chairman, Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, acknowledges could be a long fight.

Platte County

Platte County residents on Tuesday will vote on a half-cent sales tax that would fund an expansion of the county’s 180-bed jail. The tax would raise $65 million and run until 2025.

The expansion would include about 200 additional beds as well as space for the prosecutor’s office and an additional courtroom.

Platte County Undersheriff Erik Holland said the building’s deteriorating conditions and overcrowding have made it unsafe for staff.

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.

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.

File photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas prisons spend almost four times as much on overtime pay as they did six years ago. 

The state paid out more than $8.2 million on overtime in fiscal year 2018 and is on track to spend even more in 2019, with overtime exceeding $5 million in just the first half of the fiscal year.

That’s compared to fiscal year 2013, when the state paid out just $1.8 million in overtime.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Let’s say you’re arrested. You’re booked into your local jail and the district attorney decides to press charges.

The next day, you make your first court appearance in front of a judge, who then has to make a decision. Let you go home before trial — or keep you in jail?  And under what conditions?

Robert J. Dole Federal Courthouse

Though the criminal justice reform bill signed into law Friday by President Donald Trump affects only prisoners charged with federal crimes, it could have an outsized effect in states like Kansas and Missouri, where repeat drug offenders are more likely to face harsh prison sentences.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

A state audit of Kansas’s only juvenile corrections facility uncovered allegations of violence between staff members and sexual relationships between workers and the underage inmates.

A survey attempted to reach 229 current and former employees of the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex in Topeka. Only 48 responded.