There is a little over a week remaining for parole absconders to take advantage of an amnesty period in Arkansas. Reforms to the system have created stricter penalties for those failing to report to probation officers after a repeat absconder was charged with committing a murder last year.
The Department of Community Correction is now working to address the cases of 2,000 people. Deputy Director Dina Tyler said there are typically two reasons for people to abscond.
“It comes time to go to the officer and they think, ‘I can’t pay my $35 this month and I’m going to skip this and I’ll go in next month and get caught up.’ Then the next month rolls around and they don’t have the supervision fees again so again they skip. Before they know it they’ve been skipping for three or four months or perhaps they’ve been doing real well and they went to some party or some situation and they smoked marijuana and they’re worried they’re going to fail a drug test,” said Tyler.
About 140 absconders have reported so far during the period that began in February and runs through the end of the month. Tyler said a special team of 21 officials is actively searching for the most dangerous and those with new charges since being paroled.
“It’s called special-response team and it’s made up of highly trained officers, we have 21 of them, and their case load consists of absconders. They’re starting with the highest fires first, the ones we think potentially pose the largest threat to public safety. Since they’ve been on the ground since January 13th they have caught 93 absconders who we felt were a threat and all of them have been locked up,” said Tyler.
This is the first time an amnesty period has been offered and Tyler said it’s only being implemented under the circumstances of changing parole laws to help address a backlog of cases.