Gov. Mike Beebe seems to indicate a somewhat nuanced picture is emerging as facts are being gathered on how an Arkansas parolee, now a murder suspect, failed to be held behind bars despite repeat criminal charges and failure to appear for parole meetings. The Democrat-Gazette reports here on Beebe's efforts in the matter of Darrell Dennis, accused in the slaying of Forrest Abrams.
Fox 16 also has a report that might indicate where the Department of Community Corrections aims to take the review of its actions — blaming the Pulaski County sheriff's office, specifically the jail, for releasing him. It claims it removed a hold on Dennis at the request of the jail.
Sheriff Holladay says Dennis was able to go free because D.C.C. faxed the jail a "speed letter" asking for his release.
"If they didn't want him released, they shouldn't have sent us this order to release him," Holladay said, pounding his finger down on the document.
We've been down this muddled road before — remember the probationer who killed police officers in Washington state.
So far, this case is repeating that one in a significant aspect. Apart from limited responses from departmental spokeswoman Rhonda Sharp, the probation and parole agency will NOT send its top officials out to talk to the press. I can't think of another state agency that so successfully resists accountability. Beebe says blame will be laid when the process is completed. If that doesn't include a public accountability session for the leaders of the agency, that won't be good enough. Trust Beebe though the public might, that isn't sufficient verification.
Finally, I've been meaning to add this to the discussion.
Parolees commit crimes. Sad but true. Each act of recidivism is not proof of the failure of the parole system. Nor is it justification for throw-away-the-key sentencing. I fear that the important process of reviewing parole procedures for failings might lead to knee-jerk reactions — such as a return to the thinking that the best way to deal with the pathology of drug use and addiction is longer prison sentences for criminals driven by drugs.