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TOPEKA—Before a Kansas Supreme Court task force charged with examining pretrial detention practices delivers its final report to the court, it will offer two public forums to answer questions about its findings, recommendations, and proposed best practices.

Chief Judge Karen Arnold-Burger, the Kansas Court of Appeals judge who chairs the task force, said the forums are to answer questions and to discover whether there are concerns not already addressed during the two-year project.

“The full task force met quarterly and subcommittees more frequently to work through the mountains of information available on this topic,” Arnold-Burger said. “We also invited every stakeholder group we thought might be interested to ensure we heard all viewpoints. The public forums are to hear from anyone who might want to weigh in before we finalize our report.”

Public forums September 9 and 24

The forums will be conducted virtually on Zoom and participants are encouraged to submit questions ahead of time. Questions may also be asked by chat during the events.

People who want to participate in a forum must register ahead of time:

4 to 6 p.m.
September 9
Register for September 9 forum

5 to 7 p.m.
September 24
Register for September 24 forum

The task force is accepting questions at

Draft report and written comment

The task force’s draft report, proposed recommendations, and proposed best practices are on the Ad Hoc Pretrial Justice Task Force webpage:  

The task force is accepting written comment at until 5 p.m. September 18.

Task force recommendations

The task force grouped its recommendations in categories based on where they apply in the process, from before arrest to trial. For example, the “general” category covers the need for education about the presumption of innocence and pretrial detention as the exception, as well the need to collect data to measure the effectiveness of any changes in practice.

The “pre-charge” category discusses options such as issuing notices to appear rather than arresting people for misdemeanor offenses, connecting people with mental health or substance abuse issues to needed support before arrest or to treatment as part of a diversion program.

The “release decision” category discusses the need for uniform pretrial procedures, increased and earlier access to appointed counsel, and piloting more than one pretrial risk assessment program after which participating courts recommend one to use statewide.

The “post-charge” category discusses the need for post-charge procedures to ensure timely review of release conditions, an option for offenders to voluntarily report after missing a court date to avoid unnecessary arrest, text messages to remind people of their court dates, and several options related to pretrial supervision.

Each recommendation includes an explanation of the rationale behind it, costs and funding associated with each, what it would take to implement, and a summary of stakeholder concerns.

Ad Hoc Pretrial Justice Task force formation and charge

The Ad Hoc Pretrial Justice Task Force was formed in November 2018 to examine current pretrial detention practices for criminal defendants in Kansas district courts, as well as alternatives to pretrial detention used to ensure public safety and encourage the accused to appear for court proceedings.

The task force was also directed to compare Kansas practices to effective pretrial detention practices and detention alternatives identified by other courts, and to use those comparisons to develop best practices for Kansas district courts.

Arnold-Burger commends task force, stakeholders

Arnold-Burger commended task force members for their time, effort, and commitment to this project, and the stakeholders who shared their perspectives.

“Everyone on the task force or who spoke to the task force was deeply committed to thoroughly reviewing pretrial release from all perspectives to identify how Kansas judges can make informed decisions that respect our constitutional freedoms, uphold public safety, and fulfill the objective of getting people to show up for court,” Arnold-Burger said. “The draft report reflects the ideals and concerns freely shared by all involved.”

The 15-member task force includes judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and court services and community corrections officers.

The task force report is to be delivered to the Kansas Supreme Court by November 6.

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