Gunner DeLay, the Republican candidate for attorney general, called today for using the state surplus to build more prison beds and thus relieve jail crowding in places like Little Rock. He suggests this could help tamp down the homicide rate. Interesting, because the governor (a Republican) reacted a bit testily when local officials said our crime situation could be eased if only the state would take some of its prisoners and open up jail beds in Pulaski County.
We'd run DeLay's news release, but he didn't send us one. A Democratic Party committee did respond, however, so we'll give you that on the jump.
UPDATE: Belatedly, we have the news release, and it's on the jump, too.
VICTORY 2006 NEWS RELEASE
Republican nominee for attorney general Gunner Delay proved his willingness to use serious matters of Arkansas safety as political fodder at a press conference in Little Rock, today.
“If Gunner Delay proved anything today, it’s that he’s willing to play politics with the safety of Arkansans,” Greg Hale, Victory 2006 campaign director, said. “Perhaps the most telling message from Gunner Delay is what he didn’t say.”
At today’s press conference, Delay proposed using a portion of the state’s surplus to build more prisons to house violent offenders in Little Rock and other areas, although he admitted he did not know how much money he believed should be used nor did he know how many prison beds are needed.
DELAY NEWS RELEASE
Little Rock – Today, standing in front of a make shift memorial constructed in honor of the 33 people who have been slain in Little Rock this year, Gunner DeLay republican candidate for attorney general announced his plan to deal with the rising murder rate in the state’s capitol.
DeLay noted that the rising murder rate is an issue that must be a top priority for the next attorney general. “I have lived in Arkansas my entire life and I can tell you that whatever affects Little Rock affects the entire state. So this is not just a Little Rock problem. Thousands of people travel to our state’s capitol everyday to conduct business and vacation. We want to make sure they feel comfortable and safe at all times.”
DeLay served notice that he is a strong proponent of the death penalty and as attorney general he would push his office as hard as possible to move death penalty cases toward final resolution. I am letting the criminal element in this state know that there is going to be a ‘new sheriff’ in town and I am not going to sit back and let our cities turn into the wild west.”
DeLay also noted that crime was an issue where he and his opponent Rep. Dustin McDaniel are sharply divided. “I don’t think Mr. McDaniel gets it. We know there is a direct correlation between meth use and other types of crime, including murder. Yet, in the last legislative session he voted in favor of reducing the sentences for meth dealers and manufacturers. This is not the direction we need to go.” DeLay also said it was puzzling that McDaniel in a recent interview stated that he would rather be a criminal defense lawyer than a prosecutor.
DeLay set forth a four part plan to deal with the sharp rise in the murder rate, which he noted was partially connected to the drug trade.
“First, we need to address the overcrowding problem in our county jails. We can do this by adding more prison beds at the Department of Correction. In the next legislative session, I am going to lobby the legislature to make sure we use a good part of the budget surplus to construct more prison space. Dispensing justice and keeping citizens safe is one of the basic functions of government, so this has to be a top priority.
Second, I want to change the law concerning the use of drug task force money. Right now the guidelines are way too loose. This past Spring we found out one prosecutor used task force money to conduct a political poll. I want to see use at least 50% of task force money on putting additional law enforcement personnel on the streets.
Third, I want to work with law local enforcement agencies to see how we can increase our community policing efforts. Community policing can be an effective deterrent to crime.
DELAY DIDN’T SAY that this proposal would do nothing to house the offenders committing crimes right now, nor does it have the potential to offer short-term safety by housing violent offenders committing crimes this summer.
DELAY DIDN’T SAY that this proposal is only a one-time fix, using one-time surplus money to build more prison beds without planning for the long-term.
DELAY DIDN’T SAY if he had talked to the top of the GOP ticket, gubernatorial nominee Asa Hutchinson, about this idea since Hutchinson has already committed the surplus funds to other purposes.
At today’s press conference, Delay called for the repeal of recent legislation to allow methamphetamine makers to shorten their mandatory time in prison with good behavior.
DELAY DIDN’T SAY that this bill did not mandate shorter sentences, it only gave local prosecutors and courtrooms discretion for good behavior on a case-by-case basis.
DELAY DIDN’T SAY this bill was passed to allow discretion to prioritize keeping violent offenders in jail as more important than non-violent offenders.
DELAY DIDN’T SAY why he cannot keep his story straight. He wants more prison space for violent offenders one minute, but wants to take away space for violent offenders the next.
Unlike politician Gunner Delay, Democratic nominee and former Jonesboro police officer, Dustin McDaniel has a record on fighting the methamphetamine problem in Arkansas. He cosponsored Attorney General Mike Beebe’s legislation to put cold medicine behind the counter, an act that has been credited with cutting the number of methamphetamine labs in half.
“If Gunner Delay wants to make a difference about the meth problem, why doesn’t he pick up the phone and call some of his Republican buddies in Washington to tell them to fix the meth-fighting programs they cut,” Hale said.
The Republican controlled Congress and White House have cut the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant Program by more than half over the past three years and tried to eliminate it entirely in the 2007 budget. That program put over a $1.7 million into Arkansas drug task forces, in 2006 alone.