Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Asa Hutchinson reads newspaper; finds crime a problem

Posted By on Tue, May 27, 2014 at 12:12 PM

click to enlarge BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson

Using a rise in homicides in Little Rock this year as a jumping off point (he quoted the daily newspaper), Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson called in the press to get some free media today for his ideas on crime.

His key points, from a release:

There are five areas that Hutchinson asserts we must address in order to reduce the negative impact of crime and drugs on our streets. The emphasis of a Hutchinson administration will range from increased enforcement efforts to improved drug education and treatment efforts. They include:

1. Improved accountability and supervision for parolees who are released from prison.

2. More resources for state law enforcement and drug task forces to go after violent criminals and those who threaten society. These new resources range from increased personnel in drug enforcement to funding of necessary additional prison space.

3. Support for proven and effective reentry programs for those who have paid their penalties and desire to get a job, support their families and meet their obligations to their communities.

4. Offer technical and expert assistance to local schools in the area of school security and safety for the protection of our children.

5. Increased funding for drug treatment courts that have proven to be successful in changing lives from drug addiction and crime to responsibility.

Funny thing. I had a long talk with some city people about crime in Little Rock over the weekend. Sad but true points:

*Homicides mostly involve people who know each other. Drug deals figure in many of them. Those are less threatening news events than something that has happened way more than a few dozen times this year.

*It's the little stuff. Car burglaries are a fact of life. Repeat traffic offenders never pay up. Home burglary is a profession for a significant number of residents of Little Rock. The jail WON'T take some of these offenders and some of the others, though arrested and convicted, serve no time because — THERE ISN'T ROOM IN PRISON FOR ALL THE NON-VIOLENT OFFENDERS.

The Pulaski County jail is full of people who should be in state prison. Local jails arranged by city officials as backup when the Pulaski jail overflows are also full. Some of the overflow is due to a tightening of parole procedures that already has resulted from legislative pressure.

I think any candidate who devotes a bare 17 words of a secondary nature (see emphasis above) to the money needs that underlie a meaningful discussion of this issue is trying to pull a fast one. Show me the money. Also show me where increased enforcement has EVER reduced drug use. Then we'll talk. This goes for Mike Ross, too.

David Ramsey provides updates from the news conference:

*COST: Hutchinson did specify some — a $300,000 pittance for re-entry programs and $1 million for more parole supervision. Prison costs? No price given, but he said he'd be willing to "budget what is needed for a new prison if that is what is needed to make sure that our violent criminals get off the streets." So easy to say. Particularly since that cost is not just construction but a huge amount for staffing. From where?

*FOCUS ON LR CRIME: He said has residence in Little Rock and family in Little Rock and his wife has served on a LR jury. "You cannot help but notice and be concerned about the escalating violent crime problem in Central Arkansas." He noted the 22 murders so far this year and 11 in April. "Whenever you see individuals that worry about where they're parking as they go to the grocery store or worry about the bank they're going to because of the rash of bank robberies, these are real concerns to people as they live in this community. ... It's not just in Little Rock — you look broadly across this state and the challenge of methamphetamines and drugs and the associated violent crime in varying degrees is a concern to our efforts to recruit industry to our state and to provide the jobs and quality of life that we want and expect in this state."

Hutchinson said he believed his approach would reduce demand on prisons over time. He also said Act 570, which allowed for reduced sentences for lesser offenses, needed to be tweaked. And he said he was all for pre-K education, something opponent Mike Ross has cited as a building block for less-crime-prone citizens. But he added later, "I believe in pre-k, but if you have somebody who commits a violent crime, pre-k is not the answer at that point. You’ve got to incarcerate them to keep them off the street."

Mike Ross' campaign responded that he'll be rolling out a series of policy ideas in the months ahead, too, and commented:

“As a former quorum court member, state senator and U.S. Congressman, Mike Ross has a strong record of being tough on crime and supporting our law enforcement community and first responders, which is why 65 of the state's 75 county sheriffs have endorsed Mike Ross and his campaign for Arkansas’s future.”

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