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ACLU applies for early release for some inmates after COVID-19 outbreak

Coronavirus in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Some people are not happy with the way the Kansas Department of Corrections is handling the coronavirus pandemic. Now, the ACLU of Kansas is applying for clemency for some inmates.

Governor Laura Kelly said this outbreak is just another reason why Kansas needs criminal justice reform.

Aaron Jenkins (Courtesy Kansas Department of Corrections)

“They earned their place in society and they threw it away to a death sentence, I feel like,” said Mia Monroe.

Monroe is engaged to inmate Aaron Jenkins who would have been serving the remainder of his prison sentence at the Wichita Work Release Facility.

Instead, he is one of hundreds of inmates at Lansing Correctional Facility after multiple inmates in Wichita tested positive for coronavirus.

“They don’t want to send people into jail because of marijuana, yet my fiance is in there because of marijuana,” said Monroe.

Aaron Jenkins family (Courtesy Mia Monroe)

Jenkins went to prison in October 2018 for marijuana possession. He’s been in work release since September 2019 and is eligible to get out in August.

Up until recently, he’s been able to go to church and see his family on a limited basis.

We took some of Monroe’s concerns to Kansas Governor Laura Kelly.

“Always sounds easier to say, ‘Why not let some folks out?'” said Kelly. “It doesn’t work that way. There are processes and procedures.”

The governor said the Kansas Prisoner Review Board makes part of those decisions based on certain criteria which include risk factors, a place to live, employment, and environment.

Lansing Correctional has more than 900 known coronavirus cases which include both inmates and employees. As of June 4, 2020, four inmates and two employees died. The ACLU of Kansas applied for clemency for some inmates as a result. Jenkins is one of those inmates.

“I think we’re selecting people who are examples of people who are ready to be released, who are going to be successful and contributors to society if they’re given opportunities,” said Lauren Bonds, a lawyer with the ACLU of Kansas.

“This situation makes it all the more clear why we need to resume the criminal justice reform process,” said the governor.

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