Arkansas Media Coverage

In the Media

Governor Helps Open Sebastian County Crisis Stabilization Unit

Elected officials from all across the state and other guests convened at the Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center campus in Fort Smith for a ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of the Sebastian County regional crisis stabilization unit.

Ribbon Cutting for State’s First Crisis Stabilization Unit

The opening of Arkansas’s first Crisis Stabilization Unit in Sebastian County opens an entirely new and more humane approach for law-enforcement officers who encounter a person in a mental-health crisis, Governor Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday morning at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Arkansas Judicial Task Force on Track to Reduce Prison Population by Ten Percent in Six Years

Nearly two dozen agencies across Arkansas are working together to reduce the state’s prison population by ten percent in six years. According to The Council of State Governments Justice Center, Act 423 passed during the last legislative session is expected to lower the state’s prison population by nearly 1,700 inmates and save the state about $290 million by FY2023.

New Law Provides Sidetrack to Prison for Probation Violators in Arkansas

A new law on the books, set to go into effect today, aims at sending those low-level probation violators, as well as delinquent parolees, to short-term lockups at county jails or to treatment programs rather than to longer-term, crowded prisons. The state Department of Correction has more than 16,000 inmates in custody but only room for 15,300.

Arkansas to Open Four Regional Mental Health Crisis Centers

During the first meeting of the Interagency Task Force Thursday, a legislative liaison for Gov. Asa Hutchinson read a letter from him, outlining the state’s intent to establish regional crisis stabilization units in Craighead, Pulaski, Sebastian and Washington counties.

Will Another High-Profile Crime Derail Parole Reform?

In the wake of the July 1 Power Ultra Lounge mass shooting, city and state officials have put parole and probation at the center of law enforcement plans to tackle violent crime in Little Rock and clamp down on what’s been described as gang activity.

Arkansas Pilot Program Seeks Care, Not Jail, for Mentally Ill

The Arkansas Legislature and Gov. Asa Hutchinson this year approved a pilot program to create something that county officials have been advocating for since 2015: facilities where some mentally ill people who break the law can be taken instead of jail.

Sebastian County Fights the Jail Overcrowding Issue

In the most recent data available, there are nearly 745,000 people behind bars in the United States. Prison and jail overcrowding is a real problem, and it continues to grow including here in Arkansas. Sebastian County is now looking at all options to bring its detention center back to capacity. And it starts with giving people with mental health problems a different type of attention.

How the 2017 Arkansas Legislature Made Life Worse for You

Arkansas’s legislators were locked and loaded when they arrived for the 91st General Assembly this year, determined to get more guns into public places and take away voting and abortion rights, their evergreen attacks.

Arkansas Capitol Briefs

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday signed into law Senate Bill 136 by Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, a bill to establish three regional Mental Health Crisis Stabilization Centers in the state.

Parole Violators Bill Heads to Governor

Legislation aimed at keeping nonviolent parole and probation violators out of prison completed its quick journey through the House on Tuesday.

Criminal Justice Bill Supported by Gov. Hutchinson Passes House

A bill that would move some parole and probation violators into lower-level facilities rather than prison and create mental health crisis stabilization units passed the House of Representatives Tuesday (Mar. 7) and headed back to the Senate, where it has already passed.

Criminal Justice Bill Stymied Again

An omnibus bill aimed at changing Arkansas’s criminal-justice system stalled again Wednesday in a Senate committee, where it has been for weeks as sponsors try to hammer out details through negotiations with county groups.

Arkansas Legislators Introduce Parolee Measure

The proposal includes limiting the amount of time parole and probation violators spend locked up and where they go. The law also would make judges who divert from sentencing guidelines more subject to appeals in which they have to explain their reasoning.

State Senator Looks to Reform Criminal Justice In Arkansas

The Washington County Jail houses inmates from Madison County, Springdale and Fayetteville, along with some state and federal inmates. New legislation is set to not only decrease the number of criminals who come through the doors, but also could give repeat offenders a hand up, not a hand out.

Arkansas Prisons Proposals Endorsed, Advanced

A task force looking to slow the growth of the state’s inmate population recently recommended establishing crisis units for offenders with mental illnesses, providing more training for law enforcement on helping such offenders, and uploading offender assessments into a statewide database.

Arkansas Senate Report

A legislative task force on criminal justice has recommended changes in sentencing laws with the goal of controlling overcrowding of jails and prisons.

The legislature will consider the recommendations during the 2017 regular session, which begins in January. Some proposals would require additional state funding, so the preliminary work on prison reform will necessarily take place during legislative budget hearings that are going on now.

Arkansas Officials Offer Plans to Reduce Prison Populations

In 2015, the Arkansas Department of Corrections put 70 percent more people in prison than it did in 2012. That same year, Governor Hutchinson announced he’d hired The Council of State Governments Justice Center to reduce the number of inmates and save the state money.

Panel Favors Steps to Ease Prison Crush in Arkansas

Proposals aimed at reducing crowding in Arkansas’s prisons and helping offenders with addictions and mental illnesses were backed recently by a group given the task by the Legislature more than a year ago of examining problems in the criminal-justice system.

Panel Adopts Recommendations for Reducing Prison Overcrowding in Arkansas

A legislative task force recently voted to adopt a report containing a slate of recommendations for reforming Arkansans’ criminal justice system with the goal of reducing prison and jail overcrowding. The Council of State Governments Justice Center, which has been studying prison overcrowding in Arkansas, submitted the report to the Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force during a joint meeting with the House and Senate judiciary committees and the Behavioral Health Treatment Access Legislative Task Force.

A Reform Wrinkle in Arkansas

Arkansas either needs to build more prison beds or change its practices on who gets locked up and for how long. Although the capacity of state prisons is 15,672, the number of inmates is pushing the 18,000 mark, with many of them being held in county jails until beds are available in the prison system. By 2023, the number could top 21,000, according to projections.

Correcting Corrections, by the Numbers

Arkansas’s prison population is among the fastest growing in the country. Last week, after a year of analysis, the Council of State Governments Justice Center presented its recommendations for reforms to a legislative task force. Among the figures:

Arkansas Criminal Justice Reform Proposal Due Today

We’ll get a good sense of what criminal justice reform legislation might look like in the 2017 General Assembly later today — as well as some potential stumbling blocks to its passage. Justice Center, an offshoot of the national nonprofit Council of State Governments, will offer policy recommendations to the Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force this afternoon at the Arkansas Association of Counties conference. If the task force approves the recommendations — a vote will likely come in the next weeks — they’ll become the foundation of criminal justice legislation next year.

Arkansas criminal justice reform proposal due today

We’ll get a good sense of what criminal justice reform legislation might look like in the 2017 General Assembly later today — as well as some potential stumbling blocks to its passage.

Arkansas’s Jail Population has Grown Faster Than all but one Other State

Arkansas’s jail population grew more than all but one other state between 2006 and 2013 in terms of percentage. Among those in jails are a disproportionally high number of people with mental health and substance abuse disorders, and throughout the correction system, there is a dearth of treatment programs. Meanwhile, the state Parole Board is keeping more and more inmates in prison beyond the date they are eligible for parole.

Arkansas Governor Says New Prisons Not Likely on Agenda

Gov. Asa Hutchinson recently balked at the need for the state to invest in more prison space to address a growing inmate population. While speaking with reporters about potential tax cuts come the next legislative session in January, Hutchinson said the state’s “ability to manage the prison populations” will be a variable in whatever cuts are proposed.

Prisons Group Told Costs of Recidivism

A mix of lawmakers, lawmen, judges and mental-health advocates given the task of looking for ways to tackle the state’s ballooning prison rolls recommended that the state increase funding and manpower for parole services.

Researcher: More Parole, Probation Funding Could Ease Arkansas Prison Overcrowding

Andy Barbee, research manager for the Council of State Governments Justice Center, which has been studying Arkansas’ growing prison population, told the Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force that between fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2015, admissions to Arkansas prisons increased by 41 percent. Between 2012 and 2015 the increase was 70 percent, he said.

Corrections Costs Arkansas $.5B Per Year

Arkansas has the fastest-growing prison population of any state in the U.S., according to The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center. The CSG Justice Center is presenting some of its findings and data to Governor Asa Hutchinson’s criminal justice task force this morning.

Parole Board Cases up 41 Percent since 2010

The Arkansas Parole Board ended the fiscal year with the highest number of parole application reviews in the agency’s history, according to an annual report. The increase shown in the report illustrates a problem facing policymakers: how to handle the workload on the state’s penal system, including parole supervising agencies.

Opinion: To Reduce Prison Growth, Remember Texas

The Council of State Governments Justice Center’s Andy Barbee told the task force that Arkansas’s spending on corrections has ballooned from $300 million in 2004 to $512 million in 2015. At that rate, Arkansas will have 25,448 inmates by 2025 and will need to spend $680 million to house the excess, or it could also spend $602 million to build more prisons.

Arkansas Governor Seeks Sentencing Fixes

Gov. Asa Hutchinson recently called for more “teeth” in the state’s criminal sentencing guidelines and corrective action to reduce disparity in jail time ordered for the same crime.

Group Trying to Help Arkansas Curb Prison Growth, Looking at Texas Model

The state of Arkansas will be working with The Council of State Governments Justice Center to try to reverse the growth of the nation’s fastest rising prison population from 2012-14. Andy Barbee, research manager, told the Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force his organization will make Arkansas the 23rd state it has served through its Justice Reinvestment project. After studying criminal justice data, the CSG Justice Center will report its recommendations to the task force in late summer or early fall next year.

Hutchinson: Sentencing ‘Out of Whack’ in Arkansas

Andy Barbee, research manager for The Council of State Governments Justice Center, told the panel that according to projections, Arkansas’ prison population could reach 25,448, a 35 percent increase, by 2025.