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Arkansas

In 2011, Arkansas passed major criminal justice reform legislation. SB 750, which was signed by Governor Mike Beebe on March 22, 2011, diverted a greater number of drug users to treatment and accountability courts (which were expanded under the bill) and prioritized Arkansas’s limited prison space for drug manufacturers. The bill also strengthened parole and probation in the state.

The bill was the product of a working group of Arkansas state leaders who engaged in a thoughtful effort to analyze sentencing data, audit corrections and community supervision policies, and forge consensus on a package of reforms to protect public safety, hold offenders accountable and contain corrections costs.

Over the past 20 years, Arkansas’s population has increased by slightly more than 10 percent, but the state’s prison population has increased by more than 100 percent. This dramatic increase has come at a significant cost to state taxpayers. Annual corrections spending skyrocketed from $45 million in 1990 to $349 million in 2010. Arkansas spends eight percent of its budget on corrections, compared to the national average of 6.7 percent.1

Despite this growth in prison population and spending, Arkansans were getting a poor return on their public safety dollars. Recidivism and crime rates remained stubbornly high. Of the 27,174 adults who entered probation from 2004 to 2006, 21.7 percent returned to jail within three years.2

SB 750 put an emphasis on prioritizing prison space for violent offenders, while utilizing community supervision alternatives for non-violent offenders.  These reforms could potentially realize extraordinary savings because probation and parole cost $1.64 per offender per day — a fraction of the cost of prison, which is $57.14 per day.3

The state’s leaders have much work remaining, but the early results from SB 750 suggest that the legislation was a step in the right direction. In 2011, parole revocations in Arkansas dropped by almost 30%, and probation revocations dropped by 15%.4 

Another step in the right direction is Arkansas’s network of 39 drug courts, which had 1,664 participants in 2008. At their core, drug courts emphasize the fundamental conservative value of accountability. Offenders who are willing to be accountable for their actions are given an opportunity to succeed. A study by the Arkansas Department of Community Correction found a recidivism rate of only 5.7 percent among Arkansas drug court graduates.5

Governor Hutchinson and the Arkansas Department of Corrections Show a Smarter Way to Fight COVID-19 in State Prisons

John Koufos | June 2, 2020
Like state prisons across the country, prisons in Arkansas are too crowded to safely deal with the highly contagious COVID-19 pandemic. Already strained for capacity before the pandemic, Arkansas prisons…

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson Makes Forceful Case for Conservative Justice Reform

Michael Haugen | November 12, 2015
Last week, Arkansas Governor and Right on Crime signatory emeritus Asa Hutchinson gave the keynote address at the Charles Koch Institute’s “Advancing Justice” summit in New Orleans. As part…

Congratulating Governor-Elect Hutchinson, Other Conservative Criminal Justice Reformers on Their Victories

Right on Crime | November 6, 2014
AUSTIN, TX—In the wake of an historic election wave that brought so many Republican lawmakers to power throughout the country, Right on Crime—the nationally-recognized conservative criminal justice reform organization—congratulates…

Alaska turns to ROC policies as model for prison reform

Right on Crime | January 18, 2014
The state of Alaska knows “It’s time to try something else” in regards to their criminal justice system and looks to ROC’s success in Texas as inspiration for reform.

The Conservative Case Against More Prisons

Right on Crime | March 18, 2013
Our policy experts Vikrant Reddy and Marc Levin wrote an excellent piece recently for The American Conservative magazine. It’s entitled, “The Conservative Case Against More Prisons” and appeared in…

Early Sentencing Reforms in Arkansas Show Positive Results

Right on Crime | October 3, 2012
In 2011, the Arkansas Legislature passed significant sentencing reform legislation, which increased probation and parole supervision alternatives for nonviolent and drug offenders, implemented graduated sanctions for technical violations while…

Gov. Beebe and Arkansas Legislature Taking on Recidivism and Prison Growth

Right on Crime | August 31, 2011
Arkansas’s prison population doubled in the past two decades, and corrections costs have jumped eight hundred percent -- now costing the state $353 million per annum, an all-time high.…

Arkansas Enacts “Smart on Crime” Reforms

Right on Crime | April 29, 2011
On March 22, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe enacted significant corrections reform in Arkansas by signing Senate Bill 750—the Public Safety Improvement Act—after it was passed unanimously in the Senate…

“Support Your Family Five Days a Week, but Give Us the Other Two…”

Right on Crime | February 2, 2011
According to The Arkansas News, the Arkansas prison system is bursting at the seams. 14,200 prisoners have been stuffed into state prison facilities that can only accomodate 13,000 --…
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