As the Arkansas legislature works to tackle criminal justice issues and jail overcrowding in light of Governor Asa Hutchinson's latest proposals, legislators are continuing to offer their own ideas to help solve the problem. One proposal by State Rep. Marshall Wright (D-Forrest City) would require the Parole Board to hold a preliminary hearing within 48 hours of the arrest of a parolee and a full revocation hearing within 10 days of the arrest.
Wright says HB1371 would free up space in county jails where parolees often spend a long time waiting to go before a judge.
“As a former public defender I saw it as a problem all the time. The individuals whose parole had been revoked for various reasons. Sometimes it took a long time for them to be able to get a parole hearing and they sat in our county jails until they got that hearing.”
Wright says the intent of the bill is two-fold.
“One, alleviate the county jails from having to house that inmate when they're going to be in custody of the Arkansas Department of Correction. And two, to go ahead and expedite the hearings so we can get these people where they need to go. If they have violated their parole, we need to establish what their punishment is and get them going and get them out of the county jail,” he says.
There are nearly 2,500 state inmates housed in county jails around the state.
Wright says his bill, which is on Thursday's agenda for the House Judiciary Committee, has the support of sheriffs around the state. He has also filed a bill (HB1374, also on the Thursday agenda) that would allow sheriffs to transport state inmates in their custody to the nearest state correctional facility. Wright says that would also alleviate some cost to counties.