TOPEKA — Kansas criminal justice advocates and stakeholders are ironing out how to best streamline instances in which multiple agencies supervise an offender simultaneously.
The current focus for the Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission Subcommittee on Dual Supervision is ensuring better information-sharing standards between involved agencies. In many instances, dual supervision can lead to duplication of resources and difficulties for offenders with requirements.
Subcommittee members have argued that better communication, be it through a shared database or routine meetings, would reduce confusion. Drawing from conversations with various stakeholders, Stephanie Duriez, senior policy analyst for the Council of State Governments, said last week that most entities were not engaging in any sort of meetings.
“Whether that be court services or community correction, they do not meet with their counterparts to discuss where their cases are and how people are doing on their cases,” Duriez said. “Even if this committee discussed standards that they would like to see community corrections and courts services meet when it comes to communication, I think that would buy the state some time to look into more complicated, nuanced software changes.”
According to data gathered by the Council of State Governments, 1,500 to 3,600 people are currently under supervision by two or more Kansas agencies or courts. While the subcommittee is working to reduce the frequency of this occurring, they are also working to improve outcomes when it does.
The panel is also focusing on a larger issue they say is complicated and confusing — the difference in approaches taken by various agencies to supervision.
“Part of the difficulty that we are encountering is that dual supervision is being handled informally in so many places that it’s causing confusion or this inconsistency,” Duriez said.
While some members are hoping for more significant systemic changes to inter-agency communication systems and software, there was a sense that those changes may require more time than the committee has allotted and more input from stakeholders.
“Rather than us go into the weeds of the detail of the communication to set standards, or not even that we set the standards, but the agencies get together and set standards for what these communications will be like and what will be discussed,” said John Francis, a professor at Washburn University School of Law.
With subcommittee reports due to the full committee Nov. 1, panel members are putting the finishing touches to their areas of focus. The larger commission, which meets Monday, will vet the subcommittees’ recommendations for inclusion in a final report to the Legislature.
Sen. David Haley, a Kansas City, Kansas Democrat, spoke briefly during the meeting to encourage further dialogue and to state his support for stakeholders’ experiences. He said the conversations carried great importance in guiding his stances on certain policies.
Hope Cooper, with the Kansas Department of Corrections, also encouraged the inclusion of probation services in any suggested communication standards. She also urged other members not to leave this process up to the agencies.
“We may mean well, but (interagency information sharing) is not currently happening,” Cooper said. “The more that we can give guidance the better off they’re going to be.”
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