A non-profit is forming between Arkansas prison officials, community members, religious leaders, and the Department of Human Services, to address high recidivism rates, and overcrowding in the state’s foster care system.
Arkansas Department of Community Correction Chief Deputy Director Kevin Murphy said the effort is an extension of Governor Asa Hutchinson’s “restore hope” initiative.
"When we work with communities, we wanted them to feel they are a partner in this," said Murphy. "It's not just a state agency coming in and suggesting to them, or telling them what they ought to do," he said.
The state has a 48 percent recidivism rate and over a thousand foster care children in need of a home. Murphy said since state agencies are short-staffed, the non-profit is especially needed to coordinate services like job placement and foster homes.
According to ACC Communication Director Dina Tyler, the goal is also to better recruit local-level help. "It is in everybody's best interest that these offenders succeed in the community,” she said. “If they fail, we know what they're going to resort to, they're going to go back to what they know."
With just one ACC officer recruiting employers for former inmates, said Murphy, the agency is limited in its ability to address re-entry needs.
Last year, the ACC provided mentors for 500 of 8,000 released inmates and hopes the partnership will boost participation.