State Senator Looks to Reform Criminal Justice In Arkansas

KNWA

By Channing Barker

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.

Nearly 600 inmates call Washington County jail home.

State Senator Jeremy Hutchinson is hoping to fix the literal growing problem with Senate Bill 136. One of it’s goals, to prevent parolees who commit non-violent crimes from winding up back behind bars.

Washington County Sheriff, Tim Helder, said the legislation would take pressure off of parolee officers with a more practical parolee ratio.

“If they have a group of people under them, let’s say anywhere from 80 to 120 people, there’s no way that person can successfully manage and oversee a parolee or probationer,” said Sheriff Helder.

Another piece of the bill would strengthen mental health and treatment services. Sheriff Helder said a recent study in his jail showed about 25% of their inmates deal with a mental health issue.

“If we can kind of integrate a system like this where we can identify and find a system of treatment, I would have to believe it’s going to significantly impact people that are in our system now,” said Helder.

It’s the bill’s goal to relieve some of the pressure on jails and shut the door on an issue around the Natural State.

“The whole plan is designed to catch people on the front end, change their behavior, or catch people that have offended. It’s not a cure all, but it will help,” said Sheriff Helder.