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Prison reform law already having an effect advocates say

More than one year into a plan by governor Mike Beebe to reform the state prison system, those in charge of making it happen say it's working. Act 570 is designed to reduce the amount of prisoners and the cost.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - More than one year into a plan by governor Mike Beebe to reform the state prison system, those in charge of making it happen say it's working. Act 570 is designed to reduce the amount of prisoners and the cost.

David Eberhard with the Department of Community Correction told a legislative taskforce on substance abuse Friday the amount of backlogged prisoners in county jails has fallen from around 2000 when the law passed to just over 300 today.

“At this point I think it's too early to say there are certain causes brought about by (Act) 570 but I do think it's had an impact," Eberhard says.

The goal, get those with low level drug offenses out of prison quicker and into rehab, the workplace and paying taxes. But is it making us safer?

"I can at least say that I don't think the public is less safe and we're spending less money incarcerating people," Eberhard says.

Pulaski County sheriff Doc Holladay says one year in, it's hard to tell.

"I'm not sure we've really had enough time to judge whether or not the effect has reached us at the local levels yet,” Holladay says.

But he agrees it freed up space in his jail.

So far Holladay has found the new law has allowed the county to get state inmates out of their jail and allows them to put more offenders in jail."

Since Act570 took effect in August 2011, Holladay says the backlog of state inmates in the Pulaski County detention facility has fallen from 181 to 98.

Eberhard adds statewide 1000 fewer offenders have had their probation revoked. He says it costs around $60 a day to house an inmate in prison meaning the state has already saved more than $21 million since the law took effect.
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