LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Governor Sarah Sanders presented her plan on prison reform Monday in a press conference at the Capitol, saying she hopes it will protect Arkansans and keep certain violent offenders behind bars longer.
“I promised during my campaign that we would implement bold reforms for a safer, stronger Arkansas, and that is exactly what the Safer Stronger Arkansas legislative package will do,” she said.
Sanders summed up the bill with three main focuses: adding more prison beds, police, and more victims’ rights.
She said a new prison facility will cost approximately $470 million and add 3,000 prison beds to Arkansas.
Sanders also said it will require that certain violent offenders in the future serve 85% to 100% of their sentence.
“If you are a murderer, if you are a rapist, if you are an abuser, we will put you in prison and you’re going to stay there for a very, very long time,” Sanders said.
Sanders said there is a failed status quo in Arkansas when it comes to our prison and criminal justice, and that this bill brings that to an end.
The bill, she said, will also use $20 million to bring more people into the law enforcement field, and $5 million to pay local police overtime.
The $470 million for the new facility will come from the state’s surplus funds, then there will be an annual $31 million cost that will have to be built on.
When it comes to victim’s rights, Sanders said the bill will lay out a new bill of rights for them for their protection and privacy.
The Democratic Party of Arkansas released a statement in opposition to the bill saying,
“In Governor Sanders’s limited, flawed view of criminal justice, there is no difference between a user of marijuana and a violent felon nor any willingness to pass bipartisan legislation to limit a violent person’s access to dangerous weapons. Her plan will not make Arkansas families safer.
If Arkansas really needs to lock up more people than many countries do, then we are failing, Building a new prison is just an admission of failure. Failure to care for children, failure to educate our people, failure to invest in Arkansas in all of the ways we know can prevent crime. Democrats in this legislative session and previous sessions have put forward bills to make Arkansas safer. Sanders’s plan will result in more nonviolent arrests, more mentally ill Arkansans in jail rather than in treatment, and less money for the services our people actually need.”
Sanders called prisons in Arkansas a “revolving door” in her speech Monday, focusing on the problem behind criminals being in our communities that should be behind bars.
“Some will complain that these new punishments are too tough,” Sanders said. “To those critics, I say that’s Arkansas justice. It is tough, but it is fair.”