Arkansas Prisons

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed into law a bill that sets up three centers aimed at reducing the incarceration rate of those with mental illness.

The governor has earmarked $5 million for three regional Mental Health Crisis Stabilization Centers, saying they will benefit public safety. If law enforcement officers suspect someone they encounter is in need of mental health treatment, the staff at the centers can offer evaluations and treatment.

Hutchinson signed the bill Wednesday. He had listed it among his priorities for the 2017 legislative session.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has rejected an effort to invalidate orders setting executions for eight death row inmates, saying there's no stay preventing the executions from taking place.

The state's highest court on Thursday granted Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's request to clarify that there is no stay for the eight men who are scheduled to be put to death in April. The inmates' attorneys had argued a stay was still in place since an amended complaint over Arkansas' lethal injection law was pending in a lower court.

Attorneys for eight Arkansas death row inmates scheduled to be put to death next month are asking the state's highest court to void Gov. Asa Hutchinson's orders setting their execution dates.

The inmates asked the state Supreme Court on Wednesday to invalidate the proclamations scheduling their executions. On Monday, Hutchinson set four double executions during a 10-day period in April, though the state is lacking one of the drugs needed to put the men to death.

Execution dates have been set for eight Arkansas death row inmates, but attorneys for the men argue their appeals have not been exhausted. The state hasn’t carried out an execution since 2005.

Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a proclamation Monday scheduling four double executions on four separate days in April. It comes after the U.S. Supreme Court last week rejected a request by the inmates to review a state court ruling upholding an Arkansas law that keeps the source of lethal injection drugs secret.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has set execution dates for eight death row inmates, even though the state lacks one of three drugs needed to put the men to death.

The Republican released a statement Monday saying he signed a proclamation scheduling executions for the eight inmates, though no dates were released.

The move comes days after the state's attorney general told the governor the men had exhausted their appeals and there were no more legal obstacles to their executions.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

The Arkansas Senate is expected to take up a bill Thursday that attempts to resolve problems with the state’s criminal justice system. The proposal has been controversial, requiring many revisions as lawmakers have worked with prosecutors, judges and prison officials.

The goal is to resolve problems that led to Arkansas in recent years having the fastest-growing prison population in the country, according to the Council of State Governments Justice Center.

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an attempt by Arkansas inmates to stop their executions over claims that their deaths would be "intolerably painful."

The nine inmates asked the justices to review an Arkansas Supreme Court decision upholding a law that keeps secret the source of the lethal injection drugs. Justices on Tuesday handed down decisions in the Arkansas case, plus several other death row cases nationwide.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says she will ask Gov. Asa Hutchinson to set execution dates for the inmates whose appeals have been exhausted.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has admonished Lincoln County's clerk over how her office handled court papers submitted by inmates unable to pay their filing fees.

Cindy Glover had previously pleaded not guilty to a contempt charge. Justices on Thursday said she agreed to accept an admonishment instead.

Arkansas has the fastest growing inmate population of any state nationwide, and it's forced the formation of a task force to propose reforms. Now that task force is asking for the policymaking powers of the General Assembly to achieve its aims.

Arkansas should move low-level offenders into community programs where data shows they are half as likely to re-offend, according to a consultant's report.

Board of Corrections chairman Benny Magness says the state has no choice.

“We have to do something, because we’re not going to be able to continue to build ourselves out of this. We have to continue to look at things. And we’ve been struggling with this for ten years, to find other ways to slow this population down.”

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A state prison spokesman says one correctional officer suffered a minor injury after a disturbance Wednesday night at a maximum-security prison in Arkansas.

Arkansas Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves says about a dozen inmates broke barracks windows and set small trash fires within one housing area at the Varner Unit in Lincoln County, about 65 miles southeast of Little Rock.

Graves says correctional officers were able to "regain control" of the situation and that no inmates were injured during the incident.