Rob Moritz with our content partner, the Arkansas News Bureau, reports:

The state’s prison population has dropped by 600 in the past two months as officials prepare for new sentencing reforms that take effect later this month, lawmakers heard today.

The reduction occurred because the Arkansas Parole Board began earlier than normal processing of state inmates backed up in county jails and those serving sentences of two years or less, Parole Board Chairman John Felts told members of the House and Senate judiciary committees.

The early processing is one of the provisions in Act 570 of 2011, which authorizes revisions in sentencing guidelines, the hiring of new probation officers and implementation of programs aimed at slowing the revolving door of prisoners leaving and returning to prison.

In the last legislative session, Beebe signed the Public Safety Improvement Act, a bill he said was critical to slowing the growth of prison budgets and crucial to reforming the state’s criminal justice system.

The 167-page bill underwent major changes after objections on sentencing guidelines were raised by prosecuting attorneys. The Governor acquiesced on several of their key issues leading to smooth sailing in the General Assembly.

The bill aims to curtail the growth in prison spending in Arkansas by as much as $875 million during the next decade.

It would reduce penalties for non-violent crimes and attempts to steer future non-violent offenders to alternative prison terms freeing up critical bed space for more violent offenders.

You can read more at this link.


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