The Sedgwick County Courthouse
Kansas lawmakers introduced several bills in the 2022 legislative session that could impact the criminal justice system in Sedgwick County and across the state. (Matt Hennie/The Beacon)

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Kansas legislators introduced several bills in the opening weeks of the legislative session that would bring reform to the state’s criminal justice system, such as prohibiting the use of restraints on children in hearings and setting a new standard for search warrants.

The 2022 legislative session opened on Jan. 10. The Wichita Beacon is highlighting several pieces of legislation that address juvenile justice, system reform, survivors’ rights and policing

The bills below could be amended as they chug through the legislative process. Before becoming law, bills must be approved by both chambers and signed by Gov. Laura Kelly. 

To give lawmakers feedback, find contact information on their House and Senate rosters.

Juvenile justice

SB 321: Lawmakers are considering banning the use of restraints on young people while they are in hearings, a move that comes just months after 17-year-old Cedric Lofton died after being kept in a WRAP restraint while transported to the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center. Lofton’s death led to the creation of a task force to study the center and recommend changes to its operations. However, SB 321 only focuses on leg shackles or handcuffs. 

Lofton’s death prompted Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell to call for a statewide end to the use of WRAP restraints in a column for the Derby Informer. In an email to The Beacon, Howell said he’ll push for the prohibition through an amendment to HB 2200 since the legislation is “germane to all things that happened in the Cedric Lofton case.” He added that the use of the restraints should be banned on young people and face limited use on adults.

Criminal justice reform

HB 2215: This would eliminate the ban on people with drug felonies receiving SNAP food assistance. The bill was introduced to the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice on Feb. 3. 

Research suggests that SNAP access reduces the risk of a person returning to prison by 10 percent.

According to Kansas Appleseed, ending the drug felony ban “could result in an estimated 60 fewer people being incarcerated per year and save the State of Kansas approximately $1,750,000 annually just in incarceration costs.”

HB 2575: If someone is acquitted of all charges, some records will be automatically struck  from a person’s criminal record 30 days after the order to expunge is filed.

A hearing for the bill is scheduled for Feb. 7. 

HB 2556: This bill would prohibit municipal courts from refusing to expunge someone’s record because of their inability to pay outstanding fines and fees.

Expanding rights, benefits of survivors

HB 2574: The Crime Victims Compensation Board could increase compensations for funerals, burials and cremations from a $5,000 allowance to $7,500 for survivors of violent crimes. Survivors can also receive up to $2,500 for crime scene cleanups. 

If this bill passes, survivors would have to file a claim within two years of the related injury or death.

In 2020, the board doled out over $2.5 million to survivors.

SB 420: The legislation would rescind the previous statute of limitations for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, allowing them to bring civil action for “recovery of damages” against their offenders after July 1, 1984. 

Currently, the law restricts survivors from going to court no more than three years after they turn 18 or realizing their physical or emotional trauma was a result of childhood sexual abuse. 

Sen. Cindy Holscher, a Democrat from Overland Park, introduced the bill in late January. According to her campaign website, updating laws addressing sexual harrassment and coercion is one of her key issues

SB 2536: Provides sexual assault survivors with the right to a mental health counselor and to have a support person present during any related medical or physical exams as well as any interviews with police or attorneys. 

Reps. Megan Lynn (R-Olathe) and Nick Hoheisel (R-Wichita) sponsored the bill.

No-knock warrants

HB 2133: Would expand state law to require a police officer to knock, announce themselves and be in uniform before executing a search warrant at someone’s home. 

Right now the statute only says a search warrant “may be executed at any time of day or night.”

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Lugli was a community watchdog reporter at The Wichita Beacon. She was a Report for America corps member.