May 29, 2003
Posted at: 4:48 a.m. CDT
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- More than 500 state inmates are eligible for early releases from prison.
The state Board of Correction authorized their release Wednesday under the Emergency Power Act to ease overcrowding in the state's prisons. The prisoners could be released up to 90 days early.
The emergency action has been used every 90 days since 1998 and is expected to continue for the foreseeable future despite hundreds of new prison beds, a new center for parole violators and new authority to move nonviolent offenders.
As of yesterday, state prisons held 11,796 male and female inmates in facilities rated to house 11,124. There are 1,380 state prisoners were backed up in county jails awaiting space in the prison system.
The Legislature this year has approved about $33 million in additional funding for the prison department to open about 1,500 new beds in the next two years.
The Legislature has authorized changes in the Emergency Powers Act that will allow the prison board to release more inmates early. Currently, only inmates within 90 days of parole are eligible for early release. The new law will allow the board to release prisoners who are within a year of parole.