Democratic Attorney General candidate Nate Steel rolled out a lengthy legislative agenda to address prison overcrowding and said he plans to introduce the seven-point plan if elected to the state’s top legal post.
“Our prisons are overcrowded, and we are letting too many violent criminals out of jail before they’ve served a full sentence. It’s unacceptable,” said Steel, a two-term State Representative from Nashville, Ark.
The biggest priority for Steel involves sexual offenses. He said he wants to institute a “zero-tolerance approach” to sexual predators by ending parole for violent sexual criminals, which Steel said have the highest recidivism rate.
“The state, as a whole, should make this state the worst place to be convicted of a sexual crime,” Steel said.
Steel’s plan includes:
- Strengthening Child Sex Predator Laws. Steel said he wants to end parole for all registered sex offenders and imprint drivers licenses with labels for sex offenders.
- Streamlining Child Support Collections. Steel wants to use technology to find “deadbeat” parents. He also wants to collect prison wages, gambling winnings and tax refunds for child support.
- Stopping the Pipeline to Prison. Steel said he supports alternative community-based drug treatment for juveniles and more drug court advocacy.
- Creating criminal justice transparency. Steel wants to freely publish all parole data to improve “truth-in-sentencing” and include real-time disclosure for sexual predators who are released from jail.
- Expanding Prescription Drug Monitoring. Steel wants to allow access for qualified law enforcement to stop illegal prescription drug dealers and to allow access for approved researchers to understand the extent of the problem.
- Establishing a Veteran’s Advocacy Unit. To improve a healthcare and benefits backlog, Steel said he wants to find a way to cut through red tape of federal obstacles.
- Improving Arkansas’s business laws. Steel said he wants to update laws that may need to be addressed to fight hackers, identity thieves, and cyber-criminals by expanding Cybercrimes Unit. He also said he wants to limit reliance on outside legal firms.
Steel faces Republican Attorney General nominee Leslie Rutledge in November.
“My opponent said there is no need for the Attorney General’s office to have a legislative package for this upcoming session,” Steel said. “Because your legislature convenes every other year, that’s a long time for the many problems I’ve mentioned to go without resolution. We can’t look to a national agenda for marching orders.”
UPDATE: Steel’s major opponent, Leslie Rutledge, tells Jacob Kauffman with our content partner, KUAR FM 89 News, that she does not plan on crafting a legislative agenda but said that doesn’t mean she won’t be involved in policy.
“I will be working hand in hand with the legislature to look at their proposals to see where…we’ll have attorneys on staff to see where there may be confusion in the law, cut back on any ambiguity in the law to make sure it’s written as intended. That’s the role of the attorney general to enforce and defend. The role of the attorney general is not to stand in the place of the legislators,” said Rutledge.
Rutledge criticized Steel’s record on sex offenders pointing to a 2013 law passed without opposition. “He was the only member to vote present on Senate Bill 12 which prohibits sex offenders, level 3 and level 4 sex offenders, from being at children’s swimming areas and playgrounds and I believe at state parks,” said Rutledge.
Steel said he didn’t oppose the bill and in part voted “present” because he perceived a conflict of interest. The bill, now law, dealt with restricting some levels of sex offenders from state parks and Steel said Crater of Diamonds State Park – in his district – was uncertain about some technical language.
Rutledge and Steel also face Libertarian Aaron Cash.