Arkansas Launches Justice Reinvestment Initiative to Better Understand and Address Recidivism Drivers and Reentry Barriers

May 21, 2024

Against a background of alarmingly high recidivism and violent crime rates, in 2023, the Arkansas Legislature passed the Protect Arkansas Act. Among other changes, the act created the Legislative Recidivism Reduction Task Force to engage in a data-driven analysis of Arkansas’s criminal justice system with the goal of developing evidence-based recommendations to improve outcomes for individuals on supervision and reentering the community. This effort is part of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Through analyzing data provided by the state, conducting a series of qualitative analyses, and holding discussions with practitioners and individuals with lived experience in the justice system, the project aims to assist state leaders in answering some of the following questions:


  1. Why do people return to prison, and how have those factors changed, or not, over the past decade?
    • Forty-six percent of people released from Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities in Arkansas in 2017 returned to the DOC within the next 3 years.
    • Additionally, in the initial 3-year span following release, reincarceration occurs for 37 percent of individuals released from the Division of Community Correction and for 48 percent of those released from the Division of Correction, both of which are under the DOC.
  2. What are the costs (fiscal, human, systemic) when someone cycles in and out of the criminal justice system?
    • In April 2023, Arkansas DOC facilities were operating at over 106 percent of capacity, and 2,190 people were housed in county jails due to lack of prison bed space.
    • Arkansas’s prison population is projected to increase by nearly 3,500 people in the next 9 years, raising facility operating costs by $439 million by 2032.
  3. What types of behaviors or criminal activities are driving recidivism in Arkansas?
    • In 2021, 62 percent of all prison admissions in Arkansas were due to revocations from supervision, and 27 percent of all admissions were for technical violations, such as a positive drug test or failure to pay fines and fees.
    • In 2021, over 7,700 people were revoked from either probation or parole, and 87 percent of those revocations resulted in an admission to a DOC facility.
    • Currently available information and analysis do not explain what types of new offenses or technical violations are driving revocations.


Arkansas’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which was jointly initiated by leaders from the state’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches, will include an extensive review of the state’s criminal justice system by the CSG Justice Center to answer the questions above. The CSG Justice Center will share its findings and develop policy recommendations with guidance from the Legislative Recidivism Reduction Task Force for the 2025 legislative session.

This project was supported by Grant No. 2019-ZB-BX-K002 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

About the authors

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Policy Analyst, State Initiatives
Matthew Moore provides data-driven guidance to policymakers and stakeholders in developing evidence-based strategies to decrease crime and reduce recidivism. Prior to joining the CSG Justice Center, Matthew worked at the Kansas Legislative Research Department providing nonpartisan fiscal and policy analysis
to the Kansas Legislature. In that capacity, he crafted detailed reports and engaging presentations to help legislators and stakeholders easily understand complex budget and policy issues regarding mental health and social services. Matthew has a BA in linguistics from the University of Kansas and received his JD with dean’s honors from Washburn University School of Law. 
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