KEPC UPDATE: Prison system, shrinking economy, disappointing labor report

In this issue …

  • Lawmakers will look at prison system budget after disturbances
  • Kansas economy shrank 1st quarter
  • A disappointing June labor report


Lawmakers will look at prison system budget after disturbances

Several years of state budget cuts are having their consequences on state prisons, where recent disturbances are putting a spotlight on serious safety problems.

Low pay for employees, unfilled positions, and difficulty recruiting employees may be contributing to recent disturbances at both the El Dorado and Lansing correctional facilities.

The agenda for Thursday’s Legislative Budget Committee meeting in Topeka includes an update on corrections by Kansas Secretary of Corrections Joe Norwood.

Committee Chair Senator Carolyn McGinn (R-Sedgwick) told the Kansas City Star she’s concerned about double-bunking of inmates, long hours for guards, and lockdown problems.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” McGinn told the Star.

Some of the reported problems:

  • Union representatives say some employees are required to work 16-hour shifts
  • On June 29 at El Dorado, some prisoners refused to return to their cell block. Visitation was cancelled for two cell houses
  • Union reps also report receiving information about disturbances up to two months prior to the June 29th incident
  • There have been reports of inmate stabbings. On July 28th at El Dorado, two prisoners were taken for medical treatment after squabbles with other inmates.  Reports quote Corrections Department spokesman Todd Fertig saying one inmate suffered several puncture wounds.
  • As of Monday, July 24, Lansing had 116 staff vacancies out of about 682 workers
  • Staff positions at El Dorado are believed to be about 20 percent vacant

Here’s a link to a Kansas City Star story on the problems.


Kansas economy shrank 1st quarter

A report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis says the Kansas economy shrank -0.7 percent during the first quarter of 2017.  This was at the same time the national economy was growing at a rate of 1.2 percent.

As has been the pattern since the 2012 Kansas income tax cuts (which were supposed to grow the economy) all of our surrounding states did better with the exception of Nebraska, where the economy shrank -4.0 percent.

  • Missouri grew 0.9 percent.
  • Colorado grew 0.4 percent.
  • Oklahoma grew 1.9 percent

Kansas was only one of seven states where Gross Domestic Product shrank from the previous quarter.

The Bureau says the worst decline was in agriculture.  Retail, utilities, finance and insurance, information services, professional services, business management, educational services, and arts and entertainment all shrank.

Oil and gas production, manufacturing, construction, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, real estate, administrative services, health care, accommodation and food services, and government services all grew.

Here’s a link to the BEA news release.


A disappointing June labor report

The Kansas Labor Department’s June labor market report contains more bad news.

Since June of 2016, the Kansas economy lost 4,000 seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs and 4,000 private sector jobs.

Here’s a link to the report, which contains detailed employment growth information by industry.

The July Labor Report will come out on August 18.