A bipartisan bill co-sponsored by majority and minority leaders of the Kansas Senate would limit privatization at state prisons and maintain the role the Kansas Department of Corrections fulfills regarding day-to-day operations of those facilities.

The legislation was authored after a 20-year, $362 million lease-to-own contract for a new state prison in Lansing was approved by the State Finance Council.

CoreCivic, which is based in Tennessee, was contracted to build the new prison. However, under measures outlined in the bill, which was endorsed by the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, CoreCivic would not be granted authority to oversee personnel operations at Kansas adult and juvenile facilities.

Concerns with CoreCivic first arose when lobbyists with close personal relationships to former Gov. Sam Brownback were hired by the company.

While the influence of those lobbyists could have played into the move to keep Kansas prisons privatized, shortcomings that have contributed to lawsuits and complaints against private prison companies were also cited.

The privatization of prisons has prompted concerns over the safety of officers, who have been found to be undertrained while working in understaffed environments with high turnover. The inadequacy of medical and education programs at privatized prisons has been cited as another concern.

In some cases, problems incurred outweighed the cost savings private prison companies often advocate. Also, private prison companies benefit from systematic increases in incarceration rates, which provides little incentive for such companies to offer education that rehabilitates prisoners and allows them to become functional members of society upon release.

Various initiatives pertaining to criminal justice reform were included in the recent State of the Union address delivered by President Trump, including one that centered on the need for prisoners to be integrated into the workforce.

“As America regains its strength, opportunity must be extended to all citizens,’’ Trump said. “That is why this year we will embark on reforming our prisons, to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance at life.’’

That statement was made along with references to crime he linked to rampant illegal immigration. It is possible then that the level of support the Trump administration gives to federal initiatives for prison reform could be overshadowed by immigration reforms.

Nonetheless, the issue of reforming prisoners gained the attention of the president. The opportunity to implement promising reforms would be a signature achievement in a country where many politicians play to the desires, and donations, of private prisons by advocating for additional incarceration.

In Kansas, it only makes sense for the state to have a role in educating prisoners if, upon their release, they return to Kansas communities.

Their chance of gaining employment, while saddled with a criminal record, requires potential employers to believe that any education and training received in prison adequately prepared and reformed the former inmate. Inability to find employment often leads to recidivism, which contributes to rising crime and incarceration.

The Senate bill that prohibits outsourcing of personnel management operations at state prison facilities may have been designed to mostly address safety concerns, while also protecting state employees who must absorb a significant decrease in staffing when the modernized prison opens in Lansing.

By avoiding privatization, though, another step can be taken by the state to also modernize education and training in an attempt to reduce the rate of repeat offenders.