Arkansas Prisons

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.

prison jail department of correction
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

Arkansas Corrections officials say they are working to turn back rules that led to a steep increase in inmate numbers beginning in 2013. Projections indicate the state's inmate population will grow by almost 26,000 by the year 2025.

According to Department of Community Corrections spokeswoman, Dina Tyler, both the parole board and the correction board are preparing proposals for upcoming meetings to roll back stricter probation rules, with the goal of shortening the stay of low-risk re-offenders.

The Arkansas Department of Correction is asking the U.S. Department of Justice for details of its investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and harassment of prisoners at the McPherson Prison Unit in Newport, about 90 miles northeast of Little Rock.

The Arkansas Department of Correction says allegations of sexual misconduct at a women's prison in Newport that may have led to a federal investigation involve a former prison chaplain.

Department spokeswoman Cathy Frye said Friday that two inmates at the McPherson Unit told prison staff in December that they had a sexual relationship with the former chaplain for about 3 1/2 years.

The former chaplain's name was not released.

Arkansas prison and parole officials say about 70 percent of the state's more than 52,000 parolees and probationers have signed up for the state's compromise Medicaid expansion.

They told the Legislative Criminal and Justice Oversight Task Force on Thursday that enrollment in the 'private option' Medicaid program could reduce recidivism in the state's overcrowded prison system.

Republican state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson chairs the task force and said providing medical insurance provides parolees and probationers with mental health or substance abuse treatment at lesser costs.

Cummins arkansas department of correction prison
Arkansas Department of Correction

Prison officials are looking to pay Arkansas businesses and non-profits to help address the state’s over-crowded prisons and 43 percent recidivism rate.