$32 Million Prison Reform Plan Passes Full Senate

LITTLE ROCK, AR — A bill putting into law prison and parole reforms sought by the governor passed the full senate Monday.

The plan spends $32 million over the next two years, adding 790 new prison beds by expanding both state and county facilities. Some inmates would be sent to a prison facility in Texas.

The plan would give law enforcement the ability to search people on probation and parolees without a warrant. But some believe the parole system is so broken that major changes are needed that send more parolees back to prison.

“If there’s legislation to that would increase the burden on the [Arkansas] Department of Corrections or take us backwards in the type of treatment we’re providing or type of assistance we’re providing then I’ll be opposing it for sure,” said Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, the bill’s sponsor and governor’s nephew.

The bill would sign inmates up for Medicaid so they can receive drug and mental health treatment. And it would establish a “pay for success” program to reward organizations who are successful in reducing recidivism.

The parole board would also see changes under the bill. Five votes instead of four would be needed to release an inmate.

Serving on the board would become a full time job, and it would be easier to remove board members from their posts.

The bill now heads to the house.

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