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PROGRESS FROM THE 90TH REGULAR SESSION Management of jail and prison

overcrowding, public safety and criminal justice and parole reform

centers to be an urgent problem, and he vowed the state will become a better partner in paying its just debts to counties for county jail reimbursement. The following week, on Feb. 18, 2015, the Governor announced his plan to reform the criminal justice system, enhance public safety and reduce prison overcrowding. The Governor noted that 2,500 state prisoners were in county jails waiting for state prison beds to become available. He noted that the state’s prison population was approximately 18,000 — and growing annually by 17 percent, one of the largest growth rates in the nation. He also explained that the rate of recidivism in Arkansas of 43 percent indicates that about 4,300 parolees are likely to return to the state prisons. The Governor announced a plan seeking a balanced solution: to reduce the rate of repeat offenders, increase public safety and spend criminal justice and correction funds effectively, on evidenced based solutions. It is well documented that the county jail back up has


n Monday Feb. 9, 2015, Gov. Asa Hutchinson addressed the County Judges Association of Arkansas. He declared the overcrowding of inmates in the local county jails and detention

Assembly avoided the mistakes of the past; it funded these priority public safety needs. To address overcrowding, the Governor’s plan calls for adding 790 beds at various facilities, including contracting for 288 beds in Bowie County, Texas. In addition, the plan would add 48 beds at the Pine Bluff Work Center; add 178 beds at the Ester Unit in Pine Bluff, formerly known as the Diagnostic Unit; add 28 beds at the Tucker Unit; add 48 beds at the Ouachita River Unit in Malvern; and procure 200 beds that the state would establish by contracting with various counties. These methods of addressing overcrowding were in lieu of spending approximately $100 million — One Hundred Million Dollars — for a new state prison to hold approximately 1,000 inmates. The plan also includes hiring 52 new probation and

Mark Whitmore AAC Chief Counsel

caused overcrowding at unprecedented high levels for almost two years. The Governor and the General Assembly have formulated a plan, as outlined below, for addressing overcrowding. However, it is now clear that there needs to be additional immediate temporary relief. As of May 27, the number of state inmates backed up in county jails was reported as 2,970. Even with anticipated early release of more than 400 inmates under the emergency powers act, which has been utilized more often than not, and the implementation of the Governor’s plan, over the next six months, there simply are not enough local jail and state prison beds in Arkansas to hold the tens of thousands of local pretrial detainees and post- conviction state and local inmates. Absent immediate relief in addition to the Governor’s plan, the levels of overcrowding will stay in excess of 2,500 for yet another year and may likely go over 3,400 in the months ahead. It would be prudent for you and your constituents to continue to seek for the continuing overcrowding crisis to be addressed under a special session. Why should the state and local taxpayer have to wait for the fiscal session in 2016 for this prolong/continuing public safety crisis? The formation of the Governor’s plan was assisted

parole officers, support staff and substance abuse treatment managers and proposes spending $5.5 million to create the state’s first transitional re-entry centers, where offenders who are within 18 months of release could learn work skills and prepare to reenter society. Five hundred offenders could be transferred to the facilities, easing overcrowding in state prisons. It was fortuitous that the General Assembly in 2013, adopted SB1095 (sponsored by Sen. Joyce Elliott; Rep. Fred Love), Act 1190 of 2013, to direct the establishment of a viable reentry program in Arkansas. HB1264, Act 1075 of 2015, provides for the newly established reentry program that will remove 500 eligible parolees from the state prisons and place them in supervised housing for purposes of equipping them to reenter society and the job market. An innovative pilot program contracts to fulfill a grant from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission of $830,000 to demolish 600 houses creating blight in Pine Bluff. Proper funding for probation and parole officers has been needed for years, and the 90th General Assembly fully funded these necessary systemic reforms. The Governor’s plan also included an increase of $2

greatly by the efforts of the General Assembly, State Agencies, Judiciary and Joint Budget Committees, during the interim (prior to the 2015 regular session). Legislators and corrections officials visited neighboring states, toured corrections facilities and examined corrections costs and nationally proven tools for combating recidivism. They also conducted public committee meetings on the tools absent in Arkansas and necessary to construct a comprehensive plan to reform our criminal justice and parole system. This General


per day for state inmates, and his budget increases the county jail reimbursement funding from $16.4 million to $27.8 million for FY 2016 and FY 2017. HB1316, Act 287, provides a transfer from surplus of $6 million for supplemental appropriation along with $1.1 million from the Governor’s rainy day fund to the Department of Corrections and Community Corrections for payment of sums owed for this state fiscal year (FY2015). The state currently owes counties approximately $6.4 million. The Governor’s recommendation and the appropriations of the General Assembly for the Department of Correction in HB1223, Act 1071, reflects appropriation of $40 million



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