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State Board of Corrections faces criticism from Arkansas Governor over decision to deny expansion of prison capacity

Arkansas – Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has openly criticized the State Board of Corrections for their decision to deny a significant expansion of the state’s prison capacity. In a press briefing on March 28, 2023, Sanders expressed her disappointment with the Board’s rejection of Corrections Secretary Joe Profiri’s proposal to add 500 beds to the state’s prisons. This refusal has sparked a debate on how to effectively address the growing crisis of prison overcrowding in Arkansas.

The state’s correctional facilities are currently grappling with severe overcrowding, housing over 16,000 inmates despite having a rated capacity of just 15,022. Additionally, nearly 1,900 inmates are in county jails awaiting transfer to state facilities. The Board’s decision to approve only 130 out of the proposed 622 temporary beds has further exacerbated the situation, leading to increased tensions and discussions around prison reform.

Attorney General Tim Griffin has joined the governor in expressing dissatisfaction with the Board’s decision. He suggests that legislative reform may be required to reassess the Board’s role and structure in dealing with the state’s correctional system. The Sanders administration, emphasizing public safety, strongly advocates for expanding prison capacity as a key solution to the overcrowding problem.

Governor Sanders has called for an emergency meeting to reconsider the expansion plan, highlighting the urgency of resolving the issue. This push for swift action coincides with recent legislation that imposes longer sentences for repeat offenders and individuals convicted of serious crimes, further straining the prison system.

The controversy reflects a deeper policy divide over criminal justice reform in Arkansas. While some stakeholders advocate for alternative measures to reduce incarceration, others, like Governor Sanders, insist on increasing prison space as the primary solution.

As the state legislature contemplates potential changes to the Corrections Board’s authority, Governor Sanders’ call for immediate action aims to address the backlogs in county jails and enhance public safety. This ongoing dispute underscores the complex challenge of balancing effective prison management with the broader goal of ensuring community security in Arkansas.

Olivia Martinez

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