Hutchinson Unveils Plan to Fight Prison Overcrowding

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LITTLE ROCK, AR (News release) – Governor Asa Hutchinson, in a news conference Wednesday morning, announced his Prison Expansion and Public Safety plan to address prison overcrowding and reentry programs.

Governor Hutchinson issued the following statement:

“As every sheriff and prosecutor will tell you, there is a crying need for more prison space. The lack of bed space in prison has resulted in the current backlog in the county jails, repeat offenders being released on bond because there is no room in the county facility, and continued use of the Emergency Powers Act that provides early release from prison because of overcrowding.

“Arkansas is experiencing a dangerous chain reaction that puts public safety at risk. Until this cycle is broken, the prison overcrowding will jeopardize the other critical budget needs of our state — from education to highways.

“The cycle can only be broken by a three-part approach to criminal offenses: (1) more prison space; (2) a more effective parole and reentry system; and (3) investing in alternative and accountable sentencing programs for non-violent offenders.”

The Arkansas Department of Correction issued the following statement in response to Governor Hutchinson’s plan:

The governor’s plan will provide the additional resources and support needed by the Department of Correction and other Arkansas agencies to improve the outcomes of inmates who are released back into our communities. The increase in the number of prison beds and parole officers will ensure that the Department of Correction and the Department of Community Correction will be able to maintain a safe environment both within and outside prison walls.

But most importantly: While the governor’s plan offers a speedy means of alleviating the backlog of state inmates in county jails, it also offers longterm solutions for overcrowding in the prison system.

This plan also provides for additional parole officers and reentry centers. That means enhanced supervision for those most at risk of reoffending.

What the governor is proposing goes far beyond easing overcrowding in jails and prisons, said ADC Director Wendy Kelley.

“The governor’s vision for improvements to the criminal justice system and the cooperation among legislators and other state leaders in having open discussions have led to this plan, and we are excited to see this level of cooperation continue.”

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