Arkansas Department of Corrections awards $453,000 to UA Little Rock for prison study


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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has been awarded a $453,000 multi-year contract from the Arkansas Department of Corrections to study prison culture and climate in Arkansas.

UA Little Rock criminal justice professors Mary Parker, Robert Lytle, and Molly Smith will lead the four-year research project.

“This is a project that I’ve been wanting to work on for a long time,” said Parker, the principal investigator. “I have more than 20 years of experience on the Board of Corrections. This research project is the next step in continuing my service to the state of Arkansas.”

The study has already begun as of May 1, 2021 and will be completed by April 30, 2025.

“This multi-year project, funded by existing DOC revenues, will be the first of its kind done on the State’s adult corrections system,” said Solomon Graves, cabinet secretary of Arkansas Department of Corrections. “It will not only review operational issues within the Divisions of Correction and Community Correction, along with the Correctional School District, it will study issues related to staff recruitment, retention, and the efficacy of offender programs.”

The first phase will include studies on Cummins, Varner, East Arkansas, Tucker, and Tucker Max. Phase two will include Ouachita River, Wrightsville Complex, and Delta.

Next, the third phase will include North Central, Grimes, McPherson, Pine Bluff units, and independent work release centers.

The final phase of study will include Community Correction Centers and Probation and Parole Offices.

The research team will also survey offenders, prison staff, family members of offenders, and volunteers.

At the end of the study, UA Little Rock will give a final report with conclusions and recommendations about each unit in the prison system, a review of the educational programming throughout the system, recommendations with corresponding best practices for DOC administration, and recommendations to improve the culture and climate throughout the system.

“This has the potential to be a game-changer for the Department of Corrections. For the past decade, we have worked toward increasing our utilization of data-informed decision making,” Graves said.

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