Judge Riddel Boys Ranch: An uncertain future

WICHITA, Kansas – Without additional funding, the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch is in serious danger of shutting down. The initial efforts to phase out the program could begin as early as June.

The future of the ranch has been in question for years, however, a long-time funding battle between the state and Sedgwick County has led to a breaking point.

“We cannot continue to keep the ranch open,” said Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh. “We have been clear in what our position is going to be, and now we’re at the point where we don’t have those financial resources… and in the prioritization of our budget, we’re not gonna be able to continue with that program.”

State Representative Jim Howell (R – Derby) told KSN he believes the long-term financial solution Sedgwick Co. commissioners are looking for is just across the horizon.

“House Bill 2588 will say we’re going to assess how much it’s going to cost to run a program like JRBR and we’re going to provide that level of funding starting July 1, 2015,” said Rep. Howell.

For commissioners, that may be too far away.

In 1998, Nate Davis spent six months at the Boys Ranch. He was only 13-years-old at the time, but had already had several felonies on his record.

Davis credits the ranch for turning his life around.

“The Boys Ranch was definitely a big piece. Without, you know, the piece that they gave me, I don’t know that I’d be the person I am today,” said Davis.

Today, Davis works with City Life in downtown Wichita. He is a mentor and a family man.

Although the boys ranch has proven successful, in multiple cases like Davis’, the last-chance program is more expensive to run because of the unique programs it offers its participants, including horse care, gardening, and career training.

“We believe it’s very important, but it’s also very expensive,” said Sedgwick Co. Commissioner Unruh.

For those who have gone through the program and become successful, like Nate Davis, it is not that simple.

“People are looking at trying to find ways to save money, you know, today, but they’re not looking at the costs that are gonna come out of that tomorrow,” said Davis.

“There’s no one here that’s happy about this prospect, but the financial reality of county budgets and the taxing system we have, demands that we make a hard choice,” said Commissioner Unruh.

To learn more about City Life and Davis’ story, click here.

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