Favorite

Illustrating the governor's message 

TIM HOWARD - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • TIM HOWARD

Prison is political. Imprisonment in Arkansas is out of control. Gov. Asa Hutchinson is trying to rein in the politics that are letting our prison rates cripple this state.

Good for him. We have guidelines for this part of government. Politics too often override them.

Here's what the governor said Monday to the state's Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force: "It's my impression that our [sentencing] guidelines have little teeth, are weakly being followed and don't carry the weight they should."

That's right. And so is this. "To me" he said, "you either need to abolish the sentencing guidelines and say we're not going to have those, or give them some real meaning and teeth. That's the way you correct the system at the beginning and to eliminate some of the disparities that we see in our sentencing."

Our prisons burst with disparities. Eliminating them will take courage. Let's see if the Arkansas Parole Board can heed the governor's message with one matter currently before it.

Last month that board denied parole for Tim Howard, an inmate who has served the time required for him to be eligible for parole. The parole board's written policy states that members must consider 13 factors in deciding whether to grant that parole.

Howard has met or surpassed 12 of those 13 qualifications. His record as a prisoner has been perfect. His health — physical and mental — is good, despite more than a decade in solitary confinement on a conviction since overturned.

The board is supposed to consider his "participation in educational programs." Those were not offered to him on death row. Nevertheless, Howard studied for and obtained his GED while there. Guidelines also require the board to consider an inmate's release plan. People who support Howard and who believe his longstanding claim of innocence presented the board letters assuring that, upon release, Howard would have a job, housing and car provided.

Few inmates seeking parole can hope for such support. Yet the board denied Howard. Why? Because one of the 13 factors the board must consider is this: "Recommendations made by the judge, prosecuting attorney and sheriff of the county from which a person was sentenced, or other interested persons."

The judge in Howard's case wrote a letter to the parole board opposing his parole. At least one other "interested person" did, too. Let us note that "the judge, prosecuting attorney and sheriff" are elected; that is, they hold political positions.

In denying Howard's parole, the board ignored 12 of 13 factors it was required to consider. And the reason for that appears clear.

Hutchinson advised the task force to examine how many cases deviate from state guidelines and to look carefully at the reasons those guidelines were not followed. "That is foundational in making sure we do this right," he said.

Tim Howard is but one prisoner in a prison system that is growing, contrary to trends in other states and despite alarm, such as the governor's, about how much that relentless growth is costing Arkansans. So far, calls to curb that growth have not been heeded.

The governor is dead-right on this. Reducing the state's prison population is "a dollar issue, as well as a human being issue."

At present, dollars and human beings alike are being wasted because politics trump policy. That situation will continue until administrative bodies like the parole board start looking at and following their mandates, rather than catering to local politicians.

Favorite

Speaking of Tim Howard, Asa Hutchinson

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Mara Leveritt

Readers also liked…

  • Seven

    The controversy over the Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol lawn just won't go away.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Why a change of leadership at the LRSD now?

    Johnny Key's abrupt, unilateral decision to not renew Baker Kurrus' contract as superintendent strikes us as shortsighted, misguided and detrimental to the education of our children and the health of our community.
    • Apr 21, 2016
  • Schlafly's influence

    Phyllis Schlafly, mother, attorney and longtime antifeminist, died recently. What Schlafly promoted was not novel or new. Men had been saying that men and women were not equal for years. However, anti-feminism, anti-women language had much more power coming from a woman who professed to be looking out for the good of all women and families.
    • Sep 15, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Seven

    The controversy over the Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol lawn just won't go away.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • No relief for renters

    If you are hoping to see new laws that improve rights for people who rent homes or apartments in Arkansas, you will find disappointing two bills proposed so far this legislative session — SB 25, by Sen. Blake Johnson (R-Corning), and HB 1166, by Rep. Laurie Rushing (R-Hot Springs). Even if both bills become statute, Arkansas would still have the worst landlord tenant laws in the country.
    • Feb 2, 2017
  • Let them eat cake

    An unproductive and harmful bill attempting to curb obesity passed easily out of committee last week at the state legislature. House Bill 1035 attempts to address this serious public health issue by preventing poor families who rely on SNAP (the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps) from purchasing certain items such as candy and sodas.
    • Jan 26, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

"Locally Labeled" passport expands to accommodate booming brew scene

"Locally Labeled" passport expands to accommodate booming brew scene

As if great beer weren't reward enough, you can earn prizes for sampling local craft beverages

Event Calendar

« »

February

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28  

Most Viewed

  • Arkansas voters know what they want

    With a surprisingly strong vote, 53 percent of Arkansas's voters said last Nov. 8 that they wanted to bring medical marijuana to the state.
  • Stand up for Little Rock

    If Little Rock deteriorates because of substandard schools, there will be blame aplenty to share. But some elected leaders deserve special mention.
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation