Arkansas Prisons

John Williams death row attorney lethal injection

Executions may be a step closer to resuming in Arkansas if the state’s Supreme Court rules in favor of Arkansas’s lethal injection drug-supplier secrecy laws.

John Williams, an attorney for eight inmates on death row argued before the high court Thursday that state secrecy about drug suppliers violates their constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Arkansas is running out of time to put eight prisoners to death before one of its lethal drugs expires next month, even if the state Supreme Court gives a quick green light after hearing an inmate challenge to execution procedures next week.

The state finds itself against a deadline because its supply of the paralytic vecuronium bromide - one of the three drugs in Arkansas' lethal drug protocol - expires June 30. The state's drug supplier has said it won't sell the state more.

Jack Gillean
Faulkner Co. Sheriff's Office

The Arkansas Parole Board has approved parole for a former University of Central Arkansas administrator who was convicted on burglary charges for helping a student steal tests.

Officials say Jack Gillean will be eligible for release from prison in June.

Gillean, who worked as UCA's chief of staff, was convicted in March 2014 of six counts of commercial burglary and sentenced to three years in prison. Prosecutors say Gillean gave master keys to a student who then stole tests from professors' offices.

Christopher Wilson
Arkansas Dept. of Correction

The Arkansas Department of Correction says Arkansas State Police are now investigating the shooting death of a convicted killer during an escape attempt.

Department spokesman Solomon Graves says 41-year-old Christopher Wilson was shot and killed just before 1 p.m. Thursday during the attempted escape at the Varner Unit in Grady.

State police spokesman Bill Sadler said the investigation is under way and said details of the attempted escape can't be released. Sadler said the investigative report will be turned over to the local prosecutor.

prison jail department of correction
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

A new study on how and when states put criminals in prison shows Arkansas falling in the middle for severity of punishment, with a ranking of 20th nationwide.

Yet PEW Charitable Trusts Director Adam Gelb said that’s based on 2013 data, before the Arkansas Board of Correction changed parole rules that sent thousands of newly released inmates back into prisons.

 A correctional officer assigned to the Varner Unit in Grady has been injured in an attack by an inmate.

Solomon Graves with the Arkansas Department of Corrections said that the officer, who has not been identified, was taken to a hospital Tuesday with injuries that were not considered to be life-threatening and was released.

Authorities say another officer and another inmate intervened in the altercation. Graves said the second inmate suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.

Arkansas Department of Human Services

The head of Governor Asa Hutchinson’s Juvenile Justice Reform Board is disputing an advocacy group’s characterization of the state’s oldest youth facility as “notorious.”

Youth First, a criminal justice reform group, ranked the state’s Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center near Alexander as one of the nation’s 80 worst.

Marcus Devine, Director of Youth Services at the Department of Human Services, said that’s hyperbole.  

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

With the fastest growing prison population in the nation at nearly 17,943 inmates, Arkansas officials are looking at ways to bring down rising costs.

Speaking to the Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force Wednesday, Andy Burbee with the Justice Center research group said corrections currently cost the state half a billion dollars a year. He projected that figure would rise to $1.3 billion in a decade if population growth continues.

The group is looking for ways to improve supervision of parolees and to help Arkansas invest in effective programs to counter recidivism.

Objecting to the Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that lower-court judges can require that defendants pay their bail only in cash, the high court's chief justice cited a musician seldom thought of as a legal scholar: Johnny Cash.

Interim Chief Justice Howard Brill on Thursday cited Cash's song "Starkville City Jail" in a dissent. He said it was wrong for the majority to deny a Benton County man's objection to a $300,000 cash-only bail set in an assault and battery case.

prison jail department of correction
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

Arkansas inmates will no longer be prohibited from growing facial hair. The state’s Board of Corrections voted Thursday to modify the state’s grooming policy. 

 In 2015 inmates were allowed to grow beards based on sincerely held religious beliefs, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January. The state had argued beards in prison were a security risk. 

According to Department of Corrections spokesperson Cathy Frye, 5,675 inmates cited religious reasons for growing facial hair in 2015.