Mass Incarceration

Prison reform groups call on Arkansas lawmakers to embrace proven ideas, not build new prisons

A coalition of teams advocating for prison justice reform in Arkansas put out statements this week calling for Governor Sarah Sanders and legislative leaders to not construct extra prisons as they’ve promised to do.

The teams, led by DecARcerate and Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition, are all progressive or nonpartisan. It is going to be attention-grabbing to see the place conservative advocates land on the approaching “fact in sentencing” laws, which guarantees to maintain extra folks in jail for longer. Within the final decade, many conservatives have embraced justice reform. The American Legislative Change Council, the highly effective Koch-funded advocacy group, has usually been a robust voice in opposition to mass incarceration, together with in Arkansas.

Governor Sanders’ deal with jail enlargement threatens the very core of our widespread function as Arkansans. Throughout her inauguration speech, Governor Sanders spoke of a “era brimming with ardour and new concepts to resolve age-old issues” and one “moored to the deepest values and oldest traditions but unafraid to problem the current order and discover a new approach ahead.” Sadly, Governor Sanders and different elected officers’ insistence that Arkansas “wants” extra prisons will not be “a brand new approach ahead.” It’s merely extra of the identical.

Locking up members of our neighborhood doesn’t create a long-term enchancment in Arkansas communities. The Arkansas Division of Corrections has been plagued with staffing points, violence within the prisons, and the shortcoming to maintain these inside wholesome.

Our jail system is already unsustainable. Arkansas incarcerates 942 out of each 100,000 of its residents. Not solely is that far greater than the nationwide common (664 per 100,000). Once you examine Arkansas to NATO nations like The United Kingdom (129 per 100,000), France (93 per 100,000), and Iceland (33 per 100,000), these numbers are much more staggering. Clearly what we’re doing will not be working.

As an alternative of constructing extra prisons, we ask that our state legislators use our tax {dollars} to implement actual prison system reforms resembling pretrial companies, psychological well being courts, entry to psychological well being care, supportive housing, drug and alcohol dependancy remedy, extra drug and veterans courts and job coaching and rehabilitation whereas in jail.

If Governor Sanders desires to forge a brand new path ahead, we should always look to states which might be realizing the true advantages of decreasing their jail and jail populations.  We welcome the chance to talk collectively and create a greater Arkansas that works for us all.

Listed below are only a few of the methods we may start this work in the present day:

  • Leverage exterior technical help and analysis on evidence-based practices

  • Remove necessary minimal sentences

  • Create or develop specialty courts and/or different alternate options to incarceration

  • Have interaction with neighborhood service suppliers and employers earlier than launch from jail

  • Impose shorter phrases of neighborhood supervision

  • Expanded initiatives to beat limitations to the feasibility of launch

  • Permit or develop sentence credit by way of quite a lot of measures

  • Create sturdy reentry companies with a deal with case administration and success moderately than punitive sanction

We can not transfer towards a extra equitable economic system or deal with the complete complexity of the wants of households when thousands and thousands of taxpayer {dollars} are getting used to lock up extra folks.  Making significant progress would require complete system adjustments and investments into the neighborhood steeped in evidence-based approaches that create better security and well-being for communities throughout Arkansas.

If you want to see your tax {dollars} redirected to smarter investments that may cease the revolving incarceration door, please signal on and let our leaders and stakeholders know that the identical insurance policies and procedures we’ve been following for the final fifty years simply aren’t working.  It’s time to do the arduous work of bringing actual change to our prison authorized system to insure equity and fairness for everybody.


Arkansas Advocates for Youngsters and Households
Arkansas Appleseed Authorized Justice Heart
Arkansas Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas
Arkansas Coalition for Peace and Justice
Arkansas Group Organizations
Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition
Arkansas Peace and Justice Memorial Motion
Central Arkansas Democratic Socialists of America
Circles NWA
Compassion Works For All
Do-It-Your self L.A.W. (Authorized Advocacy Workgroups)
DSA of Northwest Arkansas
Faulkner County Coalition for Social Justice
Indivisible Little Rock and Central Arkansas
Investing in Black Futures
Libertarian Occasion of Arkansas
Little Rock Freedom Fund
Nationwide Attorneys Guild, Arkansas Chapter
Nayborhood Activist
Reinvest in Conway
Washington Foothills Youth Media Arts & Literacy Collective


Right this moment, DecARcerate and Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition joined a number of authorized organizations, non-partisan coverage organizations, and native prison justice reform advocates to name on Governor Sanders to take a position our taxpayer’s {dollars} in trendy, confirmed means to handle the wants of our households and communities, moderately than waste these taxpayer {dollars} on the same-old techniques that merely don’t work.

Zachary Crow, Government Director of DecARcerate, mentioned, “Regardless of voting in February so as to add an extra 498 beds, there has already been discuss of further jail enlargement throughout this legislative session. Arkansas legislators have constantly turned to jail enlargement in an try and decrease crime charges, deal with overcrowding in prisons and jails, and as a political ploy to additional their very own ‘powerful on crime’ agendas. Their lack of creativeness additional entrenches Arkansas in an unsustainable and oppressive system of mass incarceration, which is incapable of addressing most of the underlying societal harms that result in conduct lawmakers deemed prison. Jail does nothing to handle poverty, the psychological well being disaster, addictions, and systemic trauma. Collectively we should demand higher of our elected officers, in pursuit of a extra simply and equitable Arkansas.”

Sarah Moore, Government Director of Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition, mentioned, “Throughout a celebration of MLK Jr in the course of the weekend in Fayetteville, Dr. Cornell West mentioned that we get “nicely adjusted to injustice” and “nicely tailored to indifference.” Constructing extra jail beds once we know that we’ll disproportionately place poor, black and brown of us into these beds is the indifference we should always push again in opposition to. When different states within the nation are decreasing incarceration and turning to evidence-based approaches to drive their economic system and to maintain their households collectively, why would we do extra of the identical that solely tears on the cloth of our households and extra injustice? We will spend money on neighborhood options that maintain us secure, strengthens households, and create an Arkansas that works for all of us. Governor Sanders will get to determine what her legacy will probably be. Extra of the identical or forging a brand new path of prosperity and well-being for Arkansas?”

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