Arkansas: National leader in prison population growth | Arkansas Blog

Friday, April 10, 2015

Arkansas: National leader in prison population growth

Posted By on Fri, Apr 10, 2015 at 6:44 AM

click to enlarge us_prison_population_trends_through_2013.png

This graph from The Sentencing Project illustrates starkly how strongly Arkansas has countered the national trend to reduce prison populations.

Money drives some of the movement, of course, along with the understanding that more time in prison is no solution to underlying causes of many crimes.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson passed a batch of prison legislation in the recent legislative session. It includes new money for more jail beds — some farmed out to Texas and some to be operated in conjunction with counties. But he also has called for more parole officers and for spending to reduce recidivism, provide health and mental health treatment and support drug courts.

It's a long road, but Arkansas needs to break the curve.

The Sentencing Project analysis:

The total U.S. prison population declined by 2.4% since 2009. Five of the states with rising prison populations have experienced double-digit increases, led by Arkansas, with a 17% rise since 2008. While sharing in the national crime drop, these states have resisted the trend toward decarceration. And of those states with declining prison populations, 16 have had less than a 5% decline since their peak years. The decline in the federal prison population has been of this magnitude: 1% since 2011.

Just as mass incarceration has developed primarily as a result of changes in policy, not crime rates, so too have declines reflected changes in both policy and practice. These have included such measures as drug policy sentencing reforms, reduced admissions of technical parole violators to prison, and diversion options for persons convicted of lower-level property and drug crimes.

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