Arkansas Parole Board Reviews Rules, Legislature Approves Funds For More Prison Space

Aug 21, 2015

Credit Arkansas Department of Correction

The Arkansas Parole Board reviewed parole revocation rules Friday, looking for ways to stem prison overcrowding in the state. Earlier in the day, the legislature approved $10 million in additional funds to add 200 beds to a Pine Bluff Facility and send 48 more inmates to Bowie County, Texas.

Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley said there is an all-time high of 2,705 state inmates backed up in county jails. She said that number is being driven by parolees who get quickly sent back into the system, and a reluctance on the part of the Parole Board to release inmates in the first place.

“Unfortunately it’s just been a combination of factors that have created a perfect storm I think,” she said.

According to Kelley, her department has submitted additional requests to the governor for funds including $600,000 dollars for renovations to open 28 beds in the Tucker unit, and around $3 million to open a new barracks at the Ouachita unit.

Officials are considering sending some inmates to nearby states like Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Louisiana, to provide immediate relief for Arkansas's county jails. Kelley said she hopes the creation of 500 re-entry beds, funded in the last legislative session, will help reduce recidivism rates by next summer.

The state has experienced dramatic prison over-crowding since 2013 changes to parole rules. Those changes followed the death of an 18-year-old in Northwest Arkansas at the hands of eight-time parole absconder Darrell Dennis.