Arkansas lawmakers met again at the state capitol to discuss problems with the state’s parole system.
Legislators have been questioning state authorities ever since a May incident involving Darrell Dennis who was charged with murder after being arrested more than two dozen times after being released on parole in 2008.
Several lawmakers at a joint meeting of the House and Senate Judiciary committees quizzed Department of Community Correction officials and pushed for more action to shore up what State Sen. David Sanders (R-Little Rock) called “a system of second, third, fourth and fifth chances.”
State Sen. Stephanie Flowers (D-Pine Bluff) said that a wider view of the parole system needed to be adopted.
Rob Moritz with our content partner, the Arkansas News Bureau, reports:
“We can sit here and say we need to lock everybody up, but I think we need to think carefully about what we are saying,” said Flowers, whose hometown is home to the state Department of Correction and to one of the largest populations of parolees in the state. “Everybody who commits a crime is not sentenced to life.”
She said one of the systemic problems she has noticed is how many parolees have not had any assistance in planning for life outside prison. Many of those on parole or probation need programs to improve their literacy or help find a job and housing, while others are in dire need of mental health services and have no idea how to find them, she added.
“You’ve got homeless parolees,” Flowers said. “We’re letting people (out of prison who) don’t have a clue in terms of how to support themselves.”
She said that under Act 570 of 2011, the Department of Community Correction was charged with improving such services.
“I haven’t seen enough of that,” said Flowers, a lawyer who said she is often in court with parole and probation violators who have been re-arrested.
Read Moritz’s full report here.