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Threat to funds decried

Williams: Oversight of offenders will be affected

By Maura Wery

Community corrections officials have known that funding for their agency might be cut by the 2013 Legislature. On Thursday, the office’s top administrator told county officials that reductions now estimated to be as high as 10 percent could create a safety risk to the public.

Community corrections director Shelly Williams told county commissioners that her office’s portion of a proposed statewide $5.1 million reduction in community corrections support would hit both adult programs administered by her office as well as juvenile programs.

For juvenile justice, the maximum holding age would drop from 23 to 19 years of age, all prevention funding would be eliminated and graduated sanctions would be reduced by 10 percent. For community corrections the cuts could be much greater. State officials are suggesting that the 2013 Legislature cut 10 percent of all funding from their budget. Williams said that would translate to the elimination of five and a half community correction staff in the Riley and Clay county areas, eliminate re-entry services, offender programs, victim services, and also reduce parole services 22 percent.

“In my 20 years in my career, this is the first time they have asked to eliminate one or both of the systems,” Williams said. “It’s never been to this extent.”

The community corrections program is designed to ensure that serious, chronic and violent offenders who are on parole or in need of other services are supervised by staff while they meet their sentences. Williams said if the state decides to cut the maximum amount of services, which will save around $5.1 million, then these serious, chronic and violent offenders would no longer be supervised and could be a threat to themselves, their victims or the public.

Williams said that there are around 175 active serious, chronic or violent offenders currently in Riley and Clay counties along with 75 inactive offenders. If these cuts happened, they would most likely be unsupervised, Williams said.

“It’s a significant number,” Williams said about those who would be under-supervised. The only two options would be for the offenders to be put back onto the street with no supervision or to be in jail.

“If they were unsupervised, it would take another offense before they would even be noticed again,” Williams said about offenders who would be unsupervised.

Commissioner Karen McCulloh asked members of the Riley County Police Department to start thinking of how much this would cost them if these cuts went into effect.

“This could potentially be serious,” McCulloh said. “The county could have to take care of this in the future.”

Williams was invited to join the discussion of the Commission’s Legislative Session in December. She also said that she is contacting legislative candidates before the session begins in January.

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