Arkansas Prisons

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.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

A non-profit is forming between Arkansas prison officials, community members, religious leaders, and the Department of Human Services, to address high recidivism rates, and overcrowding in the state’s foster care system.

Arkansas Department of Community Correction Chief Deputy Director Kevin Murphy said the effort is an extension of Governor Asa Hutchinson’s “restore hope” initiative.

An internet portal called the Good Grid, designed to assist Arkansas's former inmates in their transition back to society, is about to make its official launch. 


The story of the Good Grid began in 2011, when Nisha Garimalla was trying to improve her chances of getting into grad school for computer science at Stanford University.


McPherson Prison Unit in Newport
Arkansas Department of Correction

A former prison chaplain at an Arkansas women's prison is charged with sexually assaulting three inmates.

Prosecutor Henry Boyce announced Thursday that 50 counts of sexual assault charges had been filed against 67-year-old Kenneth Dewitt. The charging documents allege that DeWitt carried on sexual relationships with three inmates between 2013 and 2014.

Jeff Rosenzweig, an attorney representing Dewitt, says he is making arrangements to turn himself in to authorities.

Attorneys for death row inmates challenging Arkansas' execution secrecy law say the state Supreme Court should not continue to delay the disclosure of key information about the drugs the state plans to use in executions.

Lawyers for the attorney general's office have asked the justices to extend a temporary stay of an order from Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen to give the inmates information about the maker and supplier of the drugs. The state has said it plans to appeal Griffen's overall ruling that the state's secrecy law is unconstitutional.

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Arkansas had one of the largest increases in jail population over a three year period compared with other states, according to a new report.


The Arkansas Supreme Court has granted the state's request to put on hold a mandate to turn over information about the source of its execution drugs.

The temporary stay was issued about an hour before a noon Friday deadline set by Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen, who ruled the day before that the state must disclose the information.

The Arkansas attorney general's office asked for the stay and also has filed a notice that it will appeal Griffen's ruling.