Kansas' Senate Bill 123 (SB 123) created mandatory community-based drug treatment for individuals convicted of first- or second-offense drug possession. This study examined the impact of SB 123 on sentencing practices, supervision, and treatment services across Kansas.
The study indicated that SB 123 diverted drug possessors not from prison, as intended, but from one form of community supervision to another, subjecting more offenders to greater surveillance and longer sentences. Such “front-end” net-widening was due to the structure of the law itself and a lack of understanding of pre-implementation sentencing practices. In some counties, judges engaged in some circumvention of the law, suggesting possible local-level differences in buy-in among courtroom actors; such circumvention was also focused on offenders with more serious criminal histories, indicating judicial-level evaluations of offender amenability to treatment. While SB 123 offenders received the treatment they were assessed to need, the provision of treatment remained heavily concentrated in a few providers, increasing disparities in access to treatment and making the success of the program highly dependant on a small number of institutional actors. (Publisher abstract provided)