The report and recommendations issued by the Arkansas Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force present a series of policy recommendations to address the challenges in Arkansas’s criminal justice system.
Arkansas’s criminal justice system faces serious challenges. Between 2004 and 2015, the state’s prison population grew by 31 percent. As a result of this increase, prison facilities are at capacity and a growing number of people sentenced to prison are being held in county jails awaiting transfer to prison. The prison population is currently projected to increase by 28 percent in the next decade.
To address this challenge, in July 2015, Governor Asa Hutchinson, then Chief Justice Jim Hannah, Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang, and House Speaker Jeremy Gillam requested intensive technical assistance from The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center to use a justice reinvestment approach to assist the state with developing data-driven policy options designed to reduce the prison population, contain corrections spending, and reinvest in strategies that can reduce recidivism and increase public safety.
Passed by the Arkansas legislature and signed in April 2015, Act 895 established the bipartisan Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force to study the state’s criminal justice system. The 19-member task force, which includes state lawmakers, members of the judiciary, corrections officials, prosecuting and defense attorneys, law enforcement representatives, and behavioral health practitioners have met multiple times since November 2015 to review analyses and develop policy options. These policies will reduce the prison population by limiting the length of stay for people serving time in prison for violations of the terms of their supervision, as well as increase efficiencies in the delivery of critical programming and treatment in prison and in the community to improve outcomes for people receiving these services and increase public safety. In December 2016, the task force recommended that the legislature adopt these policies, which will help the state avert millions of dollars in construction and operating costs and reinvest savings in hiring additional supervision officers, providing community-based substance use treatment and programming, and reimbursing police departments for specialized police response training.
This presentation outlines proposed policy options for the Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force, which are designed to address current pressures on prisons, county jails, and the state’s supervision system.
This presentation focuses on three areas: the parole decision-making process and preparation for release through programming and treatment; recent trends in Arkansas’s jail populations and the challenges faced by sheriffs and jail administrators; and the current landscape of behavioral health treatment and services in Arkansas.