Arkansas's prison population is growing, and likely to continue growing, but not as fast as before, according to to the most recent report from Wendy Ware, a consultant with JFA Associates of Colorado who has been analyzing Arkansas's prison growth for 20 years.
You can read her full report here and below.
"Stability," Ware told the Board of Corrections when presenting the report, was the word to define her most recent report. "Everything has been pretty much the same."
After ADC saw a one-year 17.7 percent increase in 2013 — fueled, in part, by parole violators being locked away in response to a high-profile murder by a parolee — there were lingering increases in prison population growth.
That leveled out around the end of 2015, says the report, after the Board of Corrections implemented changes to stop such an outsized percentage increase in prison population.
But, these changes have not stopped a general trend to incremental growth over time in the prison population in Arkansas.
The population is still projected to grow to 20,134 by 2027.
"You are projected to grow slower than you have," Ware told the Board of Corrections Friday at a meeting in Little Rock, but there is still growth.
"In spite of everything that's been done," Benny Magness, chairman of the Board of Corrections said, "we're still growing."
Magness said that though numbers are not decreasing, you have to imagine "where we'd be if we hadn't done it" if changes had not been made after 2013.
"Especially with Governor Hutchinson giving us money for the re-entry, that right there saved a whole prison," he said. "And it's not just that it saved the money, it's changing the inmates. But, there is more that has to be done or they're going to have to have some money in the system."
"Even though we had a spike, we were going to grow anyway," Magness said.
That projection includes potential changes from Act 423
, which was supposed to help curb increased prison population that resulted from those on parole being sent back to prison that takes effect on Oct 1.
In the past, Ware's report included a best-case and worst-case scenario, but she said she "feels pretty confident" in the number 20,134 for 2027, even with the uncertainty of the new regulations with Act 423.
But Magness said he is hoping the changes will bring a greater decrease.
"I don't think any of us know how successful [Act 423 changes] will be. At the end of the day I think it'll have a big impact on probationers," he said.
There is also the upcoming implementation of the shift by the Sentencing Commission to ranges on their grid
, which officials hope will stem prison population growth.
But, as Board of Corrections member discussed at their last meeting, some see in the growth a potential need for a new prison if the growth cannot be stopped and specifically a prison with segregated cells
Magness said that if a new prison is built he would, reluctantly, want a maximum security unit.
"I think sometimes that's, unfortunately, what we need," he said.
But, that this should be combined with the "right mixture" of funding for reentry programs and work
"If you don't have a lot of family support coming out of prison with just $125, it's not a lot of help," he said.
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