Kansas prison chief suggests system is in crisis

Werholtz tells lawmakers conditions lead to riots
Kansas prison chief suggests system is in crisis

Kansas’ new prisons chief is suggesting to legislators that the state corrections system is in crisis, and his briefings are leading lawmakers in both parties to conclude that they haven’t previously had a full picture of inmate riots and other problems.

Interim Corrections Secretary Roger Werholtz also said Wednesday that an increased use of “double-bunking,” or housing two inmates to a cell, was a factor in riots in 2017 and 2018. Department of Corrections officials had previously dismissed a potential link.

Werholtz has suggested that understaffing is compromising safety and said several prisons sustained serious damage from riots.

The department’s officials previously had acknowledged that some inmates were upset by being moved but rejected the idea that increasing the number housed two to a cell was a factor.

Rep. Leo Delperdang, a Wichita Republican, said he was “truly disgusted” by “what we did not hear” previously. House committee Chairman Russ Jennings, a Lakin Republican, said its members felt “shock” after Werholtz’s briefings.