Legislators Hear Testimony To Keep Ranch Open

By: Lily Wu - Email
By: Lily Wu - Email

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Friday, June 15, 2012

A dozen legislators and three Sedgwick County commissioners attended the public forum today at the COMCARE building in downtown Wichita.

The group heard testimony from people who have been directly involved with the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch. They all urged leaders to continue funding the program and keep the doors open.

Testimony from two past program participants received an applause from the audience. One of those participants was Sam Lamping. The 18-year-old gave credit to the Boys Ranch for reforming his life.

"I'm about to attend WSU in the fall, which a couple of years earlier, I would've never even thought about it," said Lamping. "I think if I wouldn't have gone to the Boys Ranch, things would've gotten a lot differently in my life."

Even though the legislative forum was an informational session, three county commissioners, Tim Norton, Karl Peterjohn, and Richard Ranzou, attended the forum.

"As I listen to the testimony before us today, and regardless of what people think about county workers and government workers, I heard today that they're sensitive, caring, do a good job," said Norton. "We're delivering a pretty good service for our community with state funds and local funds."

It costs a little more than $200 a day per person admitted into the program, while the state pays $126.

A proposed budget will be presented by the county manager in July. There will be two public hearings before the budget is approved.

To contact the commissioners, click here.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Five of the juvenile department judges sent a letter to Sedgwick County commissioners urging them to keep the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch open.

Judge Timothy Henderson was one of the five Sedgwick County district judges that signed the letter.

"Over the years, I think all five of us have worked with and heard from young men and their families, that have greatly benefited from that program," said Henderson.

The Boys Ranch, located near Lake Afton, takes boys and young men with serious behavior problems.

"It take those that are the most difficult, most challenging of our children and allows us to not have to send them to a correctional facility, and that saves the state money," said Henderson.

The Boys Ranch is facing possible closure. According to Sedgwick County Department of Corrections Strategic Plan, it cost $204.49 per person admitted into the program last year. The state pays about $126 of that bill.

"The costs are significantly more than what the state pays and the state has certain requirements they impose on us, that they don't impose on their own operations," said Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn.

Closing the ranch would save the county between one and two million dollars.

"We've got limited resources and we need to prioritize so that we can get the biggest bang for the buck. The input from the judges, in my view, is important, in terms of the recidivism factor," said Peterjohn.

Recidivism refers to a person's relapse into criminal behavior. A five year average showed a recidivism rate of 33% for those who completed the program at the Boys Ranch.

"There's of course no silver bullet, no perfect answer, but anything that reduces the likelihood or the risk of our citizens, in Sedgwick County, of being harmed or victimized, is a program that has value," said Henderson.

The public is welcomed to attend a legislative public forum on Friday, 2 p.m., at the COMCARE building, 635 N. Main Street.

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