Campaign Addressing Prison Reforms To Hold Public Meeting

Aug 22, 2016

McPherson Prison Unit in Newport, AR.
Credit Arkansas Department of Correction

A campaign aiming to reduce the prison population in Arkansas plans to unveil its legislative goals at a public meeting Thursday.

Decarcerate, a statewide partnership of prison reform stakeholders, has spent the last year drafting legislation it plans push during the 2017 general election. The legislative efforts are being led by four organizations: the Inmate Justice Project, Judicial Equality for Mental Illness, the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and the Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System Research Project. Those groups are collaborating with the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic, Compassion Works for All, Progressive Democrats in Action of Northeast Arkansas, as well as other institutions less directly related to criminal justice.

Morgan Holladay, the executive director of Compassion Works for All, is one of the leaders of the campaign and says some of the partners will share specific pieces of legislation they will be promoting.

One example is a bill asking for “a racial impact statement for any new criminal justice legislation,” Holladay says. “Just like we have economic impact statements for any new bills that are passed, this bill would call for a racial impact statement because our criminal justice system has such a great disparity, racial disparity.”

National and state level attention has been focused on prison reform recently by the Obama administration with a call to end the private operation of for-profit prisons and by Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force. Holladay says the group is encouraged by this momentum and hopes to maintain pressure on lawmakers to enact significant change. Arkansas has one of the fastest growing prison populations in the country. 

The meeting, open to the public, will be held 3-4:30 p.m., Thursday Aug. 25, at the Willie Hinton Center located at 3805 W. 12th street in Little Rock.