top of page

Governor wants to expand prison capacity in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. —Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) is asking legislators to approve funding to expand capacity at Arkansas prisons. "The first responsibility of the government is public safety. It rides on my shoulders and I look at our prison population and we need to address the issue of adequate space," Hutchinson said during his weekly news conference on Thursday. With the fiscal session set to begin on Monday, Hutchinson is asking state legislators to fund building 498 new prison beds at the Arkansas Department of Corrections Calico Rock facility. "This is a one-time expenditure in terms of the investment. Obviously, when it's online there will be operating costs, but that can be dealt with in a future budget session. But this would not be a catastrophic reserve, that's set aside, we want to keep that at a high balance. This is our current surplus that we'll look at and it will take legislative support," he said. According to the Department of Corrections, there are more than 19,000 people incarcerated in Arkansas prisons. Currently, 2,251 people are waiting to be transported to DOC prisons. In Arkansas, projections show a 1.4% increase in the number of incarcerations each year for the next 10 years. "As you grow in population, historically the prison population grows as well. We're a growing state. And so if we can't eliminate crime, they're going to have to make sure public safety is guaranteed by incarcerating those that are violent or career criminals," Hutchinson said. Arkansas Secretary of Corrections Solomon Graves said it's still early in the planning process but he hopes the work to expand prison capacity is underway in the first part of 2023. The 498 additional prison beds are estimated to cost $60 million - $100 million, Hutchinson said. "The reality is if there's 2000 (DOC inmates waiting) and they're going to build 500 beds, we're still 1,500 beds short. Right now, without charges, I've got well over 100 state inmates that we'd love to be able to send somewhere," said Sebastian County Sheriff Hobe Runion. As of Friday, there were 430 inmates inside the Sebastian County Detention Center that's rated for 356 beds, according to Runion. Some Arkansas nonprofit organizations have opposed the governor's plan to expand prison capacity as well as jail expansion plans in Benton and Washington Counties. "We should be thinking of more things like cite and release, holding fewer people on bail, there's lots of ways we can address this situation pretrial," said Zachary Crow, executive director of decARcerate, Inc. Sarah Moore cofounded Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition. She told 40/29 News, "It's very tragic that this is the go-to, the default, that we look to do these expensive modes of giving access to health care and housing and by putting people in cages. We can do it much more affordably within our communities by creating these programs and these uplifting safety nets within our community that ultimately we all benefit from." "We've pretty much got every program that I know we can do. We have mental health court, we have veterans court, we have drug court, we have DWI court, we have electronic monitoring. However, at this point in time, we still do need more beds. We don't have enough prison beds. Our population has increased, our violent crime has increased but our prison space has not," Runion said.


bottom of page