By the CSG Justice Center Staff
The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center met with the bipartisan Arkansas Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force today to launch a study of Arkansas’s criminal justice system, with a particular focus on the sources of the state’s rapid prison population growth.
Governor Asa Hutchinson congratulated the group on the start of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative and spoke about the need to reduce recidivism in the state.
“Nationwide, more than 40 percent of released offenders return to prison within three years of release,” Hutchinson said. “Our goal in Arkansas is to establish criminal sentences that protect the public and a parole system with accountability that provides the best opportunity for a second chance and also lowers the recidivism rate in our state.”
As a part of the first meeting of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, the CSG Justice Center gave the task force an overview of the Arkansas criminal justice system to help them highlight the factors that may be driving growth in the prison population.
With one of the fastest growing prison populations in the nation, Arkansas’s prisons are currently operating at 135 percent of their capacity. In June, Arkansas received projections indicating that the prison population could increase 35 percent by 2025, forcing the state to spend $1.3 billion on new prison construction and costs to house people in county jails while construction takes place.
“We need to improve our public safety, and we need to do it in an efficient and evidence-based way. That’s exactly what this new initiative is designed to do,” said Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, co-chair of the task force.
The CSG Justice Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization, has helped 22 states use the justice reinvestment approach to contain corrections spending and reinvest in strategies that can reduce recidivism and increase public safety.