Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Hutchinson's three-point prison plan

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2015 at 11:47 AM

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Here's the broad outline of what Gov. Asa Hutchinson has in mind to deal with overloaded prisons, backed-up county jails and lack of places to put new offenders.

UPDATE: And here's more detailed information on the plan from Benji Hardy, who was at the meeting today

It's a three-point approach: 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."

Hutchinson said he wants to spend $64 million —  $50 million for more prison space, $14 million for reentry and alternative sentencing. The initial investment for the next two years would be $32 million, presumably because the prison construction couldn't happen at once.

He does call for sending some prisoners out of state — to Bowie County, Texas. And he proposes to bring churches into the mix on re-entry programs.

The Correction Department, which once had a desire for a $100 million new prison, issued this response through spokeswoman Cathy Frye:

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."

Commented House Minority Leader Eddie Armstrong commented:

We agree with Governor Hutchinson that the solution does not lie in simply adding more prison space, but it also cannot be solved with criminal justice reforms alone. We must continue investing in programs such as Pre-K and workforce training that lower crime by giving Arkansans an opportunity for a better life.”

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