Budget lock-up | Arkansas Blog

Budget lock-up

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Just now reading Rob Moritz's story on the Arkansas Department of Correction's need for $1.1 million for 300 new beds. A legislative panel OK'd the expense yesterday after learning that the state's prison population is now 16,183.

A Pew Research Center Pew Center on the States brief adds some unpleasant truths to Arkansas's incarceration costs. The number of prisoners — which DOC spokesperson Dina Tyler rightly called "crazy" — is double what it was 20 years ago. Arkansas spends around $350 million a year, about 8 percent of the general budget, locking folks up. Pew predicts Arkansas's prison population to grow by 43 percent and cost $1.1 billion between now and 2020.

Reasons: More people going to prison rather than probation, non-violent offenders serving longer terms.

Asked why the past ninth months has seen a spike in incarceration, Tyler said she didn't know. It's a good thing that the state has called on Pew's Public Safety Performance Review team for answers that will help a working group develop reforms to be addressed in the 2011 session.

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