Kansas Governor Laura Kelly wants a review of state sentencing guidelines to provide an option other than prison for first time nonviolent offenders.
Under the governor’s proposal, first time nonviolent offenders would receive treatment instead of jail.
This is an effort to address overcrowded prisons and also prevent offenders from committing more crimes.
Peter Ninemire knows the realities of prison life all to well.
“I got a 25 year sentence for cultivation of marijuana back in 1991,” he said.
That was after two previous drug offenses that landed him in jail.
“I was able to circumvent the system in both cases instead of getting treatment and getting help,” said Ninemire. “So, I just stayed immersed in that same lifestyle.”
He says lack of treatment options ultimately led to a life behind bars.
But, a presidential pardon allowed him to become a free man after 10 years, and he decided it was time to change his life. Now he owns the Caring Center of Wichita.
“Can’t say how blessed I am to 10 years later receive a presidential commutation of sentence, because I might still be in prison today if I hadn’t,” said Ninemire.
Ninemire believes he is one of the lucky ones. But, says for most nonviolent offenders, a cycle of crime becomes the norm.
“95 percent of those in prison today for drug related offenses, who do not receive treatment during or after their prison stay, end up relapsing back into drugs and 70 percent go back to prison,” he said.
Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter, who works with first time offenders on a daily basis, says treatment has to be looked at in a different way on the local level.
“First time nonviolent offense, it’s probation,” said Easter. “But, if they have a drug habit, they have to allow the judges to say, instead of giving you probation, I’m sentencing you to a treatment facility.”
But, Easter believes treatment is a good option to prevent a cycle of crime.
“Will it make everybody stop committing crime? No,” said Easter. “But, will it help enough that some of these folks after they do so many are being sentenced to prison? Then you can see the reduction in prison beds being used.”
Easter says he’s believes changing sentencing guidelines would make a difference.
So that rather than probation, first time nonviolent offenders with drug issues can be sent to a treatment facility.