Arkansas Prisons

As Arkansas contends with overcrowded prisons, high rates of recidivism among parolees, and the potential resumption of executions, a conference this weekend at the UALR Bowen School of Law is focusing on findings of a report by the Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System Project.

The Arkansas Parole Board has adopted changes in which parole violators might not be automatically arrested for some violations.

The board announced Thursday that arrest warrants will be automatically issued for parole violators who are charged with a violent felony or sex-related crime or any crime involving use of a weapon. Arrest warrants will also be issued for parolees who evade supervision for 180 or more days.

Other requests for an arrest warrant will be reviewed by a parole board member as the board seeks to help reduce prison overcrowding.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he wants the state to continue working with faith leaders about ways to address a shortage in foster homes and needs for re-entry programs for prisoners after a two-day summit focused on the topics.

Governor Asa Hutchinson (R)
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR News

Some 6,000 inmates are released every year from Arkansas prisons, reentering society to find few employment opportunities or support. Meanwhile thousands of foster children face a shortage of foster beds. That's why Governor Asa Hutchinson called for the "Restore Hope" Summit which takes place Tuesday, August 25 and Wednesday, August 26. 

Arkansas State Capitol
Chris Hickey / KUAR News


 Corrections officials are considering plans to send more state prisoners out-of-state as the Arkansas inmate population reaches an all-time high. Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley told lawmakers at the Charitable, Penal and Correctional Institutions subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council Thursday she's been visiting privately-operated prisons in neighboring states, and will likely recommend some Arkansas inmates to be housed in one of them.

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he's asking lawmakers to approve spending $7.4 million from Arkansas' discretionary funds to open 200 more prison beds in an effort to ease overcrowding of state inmates at county jails.

Arkansas prison officials are investigating an inmate who allegedly attacked a female correctional officer at the Varner Supermax prison.

Officials say the incident occurred shortly before 8:30 a.m. Monday when the inmate allegedly attacked the officer with a metal rod. Other officers heard her cry out for help and found her on the floor, suffering from what appeared to be two puncture wounds.

The officer was treated and released at a hospital. The officer was not identified but has worked for the Arkansas Department of Correction since April 2013.

mcpherson unit prison newport
Arkansas Department Of Correction

Investigators from U.S. Department of Justice are set to arrive at the McPherson Correctional facility in Newport later this month. The probe of the women's prison is looking into allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct.

Cathy Frye, spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Correction, says the state is doing what it can to assist with the investigation.

“We have absolutely zero tolerance for sexual abuse, assault, harassment or misconduct. We have asked the Justice Department to share the allegations so we can investigate and take immediate action,” Frye said.

The Arkansas Parole Board has approved shorter deadlines to hold revocation hearings for parole violators along with a stronger focus to place certain parole violators into alternative sentencing programs instead of prison beds.

The board approved the policy changes Monday, including the shorter deadlines passed by the Legislature this year.

The new deadlines will go into effect July 22 and require parole officers to submit reports within three days of a parole violation and require the board to issue any warrant within two days of reviewing the report.

Arkansas authorities are investigating a mix-up at a county jail after workers accidentally released an inmate.

The Pope County Sheriff's Office says 43-year-old Jeffrey Hale was set free on June 29 but taken back into custody the next day. Officials say Hale was in the booking area waiting for processing with another man who shared the same first name. They say Hale signed release documents indicating he was the man set for release.