Beebe: Got better ideas on prisons?

Governor Beebe announced the recommendations of the Arkansas Working Group on Sentencing and Corrections, a panel that is working to find savings in one of the fastest growing parts of the state budget – prisons.

The state’s prison population has doubled in the past 20 years, and costs are rising even faster – from $45 million then to $349 million today. That will only get bigger as the state adds more than 100 people to the prison system each month.

The working group says its proposals would reduce the population by 3,200 inmates and save Arkansas taxpayers $875 million through 2020. Among the recommendations are concentrating prison space on violent and career criminals. Drug users would see more probation, and electronic supervision would increase.

The proposals were created in conjunction with the Pew Center on the States, which has helped other states reduce their expanding prison expenditures.

It seems like common sense stuff to me, but anything can be demagogued, and this no doubt will be. Law and order types, or just people wanting attention, will point out individual examples of supposedly nonviolent offenders on parole who committed violent crimes. I’m sure we’ll hear the name “Wayne Dumond.”

But there is only so much government we can afford. And we can’t afford to keep locking up more and more not exactly hardened criminals. Nor, frankly, should we want to.

Beebe was candid in his remarks, which I have posted on YouTube. Here’s what he had to say.

“This is a (pause) … People want honesty? People want transparency? People want their government not to lie to them? … This is the honest, laydown truth. You can like it or you can not like it, but it’s the truth. If you don’t like these solutions, you’d better have different ones because if you don’t, someone’s going to have one for you. I’m not taking any money away from education to pay for this prison stuff. I’m not kicking anybody out of a nursing home with my vote to pay for this stuff. All this rhetoric, well we’ve got fraud and abuse and we can save money. You bet. If you show it to me, we’ll save it. You find me some fraud, let’s arrest them. You want to save $100 million with abuse, show it to me where it is, let’s take it and put it wherever it needs to be. But let’s be honest and be specific.”

Beebe expressed confidence that this package, or something along its lines, would pass.

The full report can be viewed here.

15 thoughts on “Beebe: Got better ideas on prisons?

  1. There is NOT ONE PERSON in prison in Arkansas for smoking weed. The only people in prison in Arkansas for drug offenses are drug dealers and drug makers. Most in ADC for drug offenses are multiple time offenders. Look thru the ADC website for yourself. Possession of Marijuana for an amount consistent with personal use is a misdemeanor and you don’t go to prison for a misdemeanor. The people(Rep Kathy Webb) telling everyone that people are taking up beds at ADC because they use drugs are lying and they know they are lying.

  2. Thanks for reading, timetorun, and for writing. You make a good point. Regardless of what the offenses are, this is another one of those issues in which legislators and the public are going to have to make a decision about how much government they want – in this case, prisons – and how they are going to pay for it. If we want to keep 16,000 people in prison, then we’re going to have to raise taxes or cut something else. If we don’t want to do that, then we need to rethink who we put in prison, why, and for how long.

    Again, thanks for reading and writing.

  3. Your welcome Steve.
    I am a little old school on this issue. I still believe that the number one rule of government is to protect its citizens. Cuts needs to be made. DCC is a horrible mess and has been since the Huckabee era. This is not a problem that Gov Beebe created but it’s an issue that he has failed to deal with. There needs to be major change at DCC and he has failed to do so. You can see in the PEW report and by speaking with law enforcement officials that DCC lost the confidence of law enforcement, Judges, and Prosecuting attorneys years ago. Public safety has been pushed aside for speedy release from prison for individuals that should not be free. 5 out of the top ten most dangerous cities in America are in Arkansas. Arkansas is ranked the 11 most dangerous states to live in and has been climbing since 2004. The answer to these problems is not put more people in a parole system as dysfunctional as Arkansas’s.

  4. LOTS of waste in DCC programs designed to force people to rehabilitate. They should close their TVP center. That alone would save millions and the bed space could be put to better use. Why doesn’t the state legislature ask for a success rate for individuals who have been thru the DCC TVP program? Maybe because DCC doesn’t keep records of their success rate. Surprised? DCC is an organization that has operated without any real consequence for 16 years now. People in Arkansas have been murdered, raped, assaulted, and robed all due to DCC permissive, soft on crime and criminals attitude. There is not another organization in the state that could get away with that. Not ADC, not DHS, not any of them.

    You can’t force a person to rehabilitate. The failure rate in voluntary rehabilitation programs has been measured as high as 90%. That should give you an idea of how high the rate is among individuals forced by into rehabs. You can’t rehabilitate anyone who has never been “habiltated” in the first place.

    Lots of fraud at DCC too. Just listen to Dina Tyler; her public comments are full of fraudulent statements.

  5. It’s funny to me to hear from people who have never been to prison. Almost ALL inmates in ADC are incarcerated for crimes that length directly to drugs. I’ve met a few in for manslaughter because they drove high on weed, albeit slowly. Like one guy who slowly pulled out to cross the highway and was broadsided, killing his 2 kids. Most crimes of passion are linked to drugs or alcohol. About the only segment that doesn’t always have drugs involved are sex offenders. I honestly see no cure for their affliction, and while ADC offers an intensive program called RSVP, it doesn’t cure their perversions. I literally despise sex offenders because almost always their victim is much weaker, especially children, and their lives are forever altered. You can no more “fix” them than you can change a man’s attraction to big breasts or blonde hair. It’s hard wired into them like anyone else. Almost gay people will tell you it’s not a choice – it’s what they’re naturally attracted to. I’ve had way too many girlfriend’s hair stylists tell me this, as well as gay friends I’ve had. I considered chemical castration for sex offenders but that doesn’t cure the urges that originate chemically in the brain. My only solution is a a remote penal colony on an island so they can live among themselves away from all the women, children, and targeted men. That’s the only way I know how to prevent a reoccurrence. I knew a guy who only got 5 years for touching a little boy and did all 5 because he had nowhere to parole to. Then he molested a young girl and got the same 5 years AGAIN but did 2 1/2 until he found a place to go. Either time he was elgible after 1 year. Prisons house the very worst society had to offer, and there are some really good men there whose life changed in the blink of an eye over a bad decision. People on their high horse annoy me and at 44yrs old I’ve started to bite back. The same people who want inmates breaking rocks all day are the same people who will picket the governors office when a loved one of theirs is locked up for a bad decision or an addiction that consumed them. I’m no accountant, but I bet that I could sit down with their budget and the department heads and slash tens of millions from their budget, and I’m not exaggerating. No public official wants an ex-con to have an ability to show them what they refuse to see. Fortunately, I have a close family member who was with the DFA for 40 years so I’ve got to hear the state’s perspective while they were literally aghast when I explained the waste. Let’s put it this way – a federal agency with ground penetrating radar MIGHT have a field day at certain units, no pun intended. I know the EPA and ADEQUATE would. Again, this state agency can break state and federal law with impunity while watching over others who broke state law. Hmmmm…. Anyone see a problem? One solution I have is for Gov Hutchinson, and he seems like he might be open-minded enough, is to have an inmate council comprised of former and current inmates so he can get the full picture. Like any state agency, they only show what they want their masters to see. Case in point – you’ve never seen such a rush of activity and stress on prison officials like you do a week before a unit undergoes auditing for their accreditation. That’s how they get their money faucet kept on. People lose jobs for messing up that week, and inmates go to the hole if they fail to do their rush job to their standards before the auditors arrive. Yes, they let the place fall in disrepair until the last minute. I could go on and on but I’m already off topic. There are quite a few people who shouldn’t be in prison for what they did, and there’s a lot of people on the street who should be locked up. The mental illness in prisons are astounding, too. They receive NO HELP. It’s a badly broken and expensive system that people are scared to fix because many people have lost elections when portrayed as soft on crime. An often overlooked part of this nightmare are the prosecutors, or in prison lingo, persecutors. I can, at this very instant, name 5 people with 1st degree murder convictions and their sentences range from Life Without Parole, 50 years, 45 years, 30 years, and 20 years. The 50 and 20 yr sentence both involve guns, and both were convicted in Pulaski County circuit court with plea bargains. No trials, and both were black. Why the disparity? An ugly truth no one talks about – there are some prosecutors who sentence people harshly to bolster their chance to promote or as a platform for election. Happens every day – go sit in a courtroom as I have. Career prosecutors seem to be the most fair. Arkansas lacks a true sentencing grid where someone convicted in ANY county I’m AR would have the same sentencing range, all things being equal. In the same Pulaski court, another inmate stabbed his girlfriend in the neck when she pulled a gun on him – SHE was high. He received life plus 40 years for aggravated home invasion and battery. She’s still alive!! But shoot and kill someone and you might get between 20 and 50 years. The big difference? The guy who stabbed went to trial and they gave the very max because he wouldn’t plead out. The other 2 took plea deals. Again, I’m sorry. Let me step down off my platform.

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