Corrections Secretary Says Drastic Cutbacks Might Be Needed

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More cuts could be coming to the Kansas Department of Corrections to cope with the state's budget crisis. Some decisions have already been made by the corrections department to cut programs and costs.

Topping the list of possible new cuts is closing the Winfield Correctional Facility and the north unit of the El Dorado Correctional Facility. They are drastic measures, according to corrections head Roger Werholtz.

"It would create a significant overcrowding problem for the department," he says. "If Norton, Winfield and El Dorado North were to close, it would leave less than 100 total beds open in the entire state prison system for incoming inmates."

There is no option of releasing inmates early. That's just not possible. To be absolutely clear, these options under consideration are only if the legislature has to make further, deeper cuts to next fiscal year's budget, which starts in July.

"We are preparing for this as if we will have to do it," says Werholtz.

As reported earlier, the state is already suspending operations at minimum security units at Osawatomie, Toronto, Stockton, and the B housing unit at Winfield, among other cutbacks.

If the state needs to cut further, Werholtz says it would mean cutting many programs. That could raise safety concerns. Those cuts include treatment, education and support services, which better prepares inmates to be released back into the community and help them stay out of trouble.

"Clearly doing a number of these things is going to be detrimental to public safety," says Werholtz.

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