KAKE NEWS INVESTIGATES SERIES: Kids in Cuffs - Why are youth arrests on the rise?Posted: Updated:
Tyler Williams knows the inside of jail cells all too well.
“I mean, the system left me broken and confused and just trying to figure out who I was and where I needed to be in life,” he said.
Williams spent six years in prison. He entered into the system at the young age of 13 and grew up inside the facility until he was a legal adult.
“It honestly destroyed me with the system itself and how broken it is,” he said.
That broken system caught the attention of lawmakers who thought they’d come up with a solution by passing the Juvenile Justice Reform Bill years ago. It was designed to reduce the number of kids incarcerated.
And Sedgwick County’s director of the Juvenile Detention Facility, said the bill worked.
“Our population has gone down. We’re seeing a lot less kids going through the system right now,” said Glenda Martens. “Our average daily population is down.”
Martins estimated the facility averaged 50 teens booked per night. But three years ago she said the number was up to 64, meaning a decrease of more than a dozen.
“The kids that are in there are more serious offenders, that’s who we want in a detention facility,” she said. “If they violated their probation they also go into detention.”
But some said there’s still a problem.
“At the same time, when you have the good, there’s always negative and there’s bad,” said Captain Lem Moore, with Wichita police. “Since the focus has gone on to rehabilitation of juveniles. “There are some juveniles that are street smart, that are wise to the system and they use it to their advantage.”
And that point is something Sedgwick County’s District Attorney insists is behind a rise in youth crime.
“There’s not joy in saying I told you so,” said Marc Bennett. “There will be some who will say that it s actually working slowly and steadily.”
He opposed the act because it cut down on group homes and other facilities for troubled youth. And he argues that now, there aren’t enough resources for the rehabilitation to happen. He went even further during an interview in March, blaming the rise in youth crime on the drop in enforcement efforts now available.
“What’s changed? I mean, I can’t think of another thing that has substantively changed.”