Study On Arkansas Prison Growth To Be Presented To Task Force

Jun 21, 2016

Cummins Prison in southeast Arkansas
Credit Arkansas Department of Correction

A state task force looking at the rapid growth of Arkansas’s prison population will hear initial findings Wednesday from a national group.

At the request of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, members of the Council of State Governments have been studying the problem.

“They have been meeting with officials, with area parole and probation officers; they’ve been all over the state and looked at tons and tons of data,” said Dina Tyler, deputy director of Arkansas Community Correction.

She says one key finding has been evident for those who violate probation with minor offenses.

“There needs to be more options to keep them in the community where you can work with them, sanction them and hold them accountable but not send them back to prison at the cost of $62 or $63 a day. And that happens way too much in Arkansas because Community Corrections doesn’t have the resources to have a whole lot of other options," Tyler said.

Rules concerning probation violations were tightened by the Arkansas Legislature in 2013 following a public outcry when repeated parole absconder Darrell Dennis was charged with murder.

But a surge in the state’s prison population, with many on probation being sent back for minor offenses, has officials rolling back some of the steps.

Initial findings will be presented to the Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force Wednesday morning with more coming later in the summer.

“I think of the things that it will suggest is that the state needs to look very carefully at where it’s sending its money on punishment. Is it spending it all on incarceration or is it spending enough on probation and efforts to make the transition of offenders from prison back into the community smoother and more successful.”