Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson rolled out a plan he says is aimed at reforming public safety and reducing drug abuse in Arkansas.
“We know crime is more than a news story when a person worries about a home invasion or a neighborhood bank robbery,” Hutchinson said. “You also have the frustration of business owners and economic developers unable to hire new employees because of illegal drug use. This reality makes it doubly difficult for Arkansas to accomplish its goals in terms of economic growth and job creation. Too often, when a violent crime occurs, we see early release from prison as a factor or drugs, and many times it is both.”
The five-point plan includes:
- Improved accountability and supervision for parolees released from prison
- More resources for state law enforcement and drug task forces
- Support for proven and effective re-entry programs
- Offer technical and expert assistance in school security and safety
- Increased funding for drug treatment courts
Citing his experience as a former federal prosecutor and official with the Drug Enforcement Agency, Hutchinson said he’s studied the issue for years.
Hutchinson said that more resources would be dedicated to the state’s parole system, but he said he hoped it would not require a large number of increased parole officers. He estimated that a price tag for more parole officers could be as much as $1 million.
He said the state should “tweak” and “adjust” Act 570 to give prosecutors “more leverage.” Act 570 was a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s sentencing and parole system passed by the legislature in the 2011 General Assembly. He emphasized that he would not repeal Act 570.
Hutchinson cited as an example that prosecutors should have flexibility to determine if certain property crimes rise to the level of needed incarceration. Hutchinson also said that he would dedicate $300,000 in new money geared towards effective re-entry programs that he’s studied that have 95% placement rates and low recidivism rates.
“Arkansas cannot achieve its objectives in economic development and job creation without a work force that is drug free,” Hutchinson said, adding that violent crime and drug abuse is “hurting efforts to recruit businesses to Arkansas.”
On the issue of building a new prison – which could cost $75 million – Hutchinson said he would be willing to budget for the cost after estimates from a pending study are returned. Still, Hutchinson placed his emphasis on the fact that the parole system can and should work better.
“A job can be the best way to avoid someone going back into a life of crime,” he said.