Governor Mike Beebe signs prison overhaul legislation

By Lauren Payne - bio | email feedback

HARRISBURG, AR (KAIT)  "Like it or not--it's time that something's got to happen," said Poinsett County Sheriff, Larry Mills.

Something to ease costly overcrowding issues at some Arkansas prisons.

A prison overhaul for the state, signed into law by Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe Tuesday afternoon, aims to offer some solutions to growing prison populations.

"Some of the lesser offenses, I don't think we have a choice but to do some alternative sentencing methods," said Mills.

Poinsett County Sheriff Larry Mills serves on the Arkansas Sheriff's Association executive board, one of many groups that worked together on this bill.

"You're talking about millions or billions of dollars to add more jail space. I just think the governor is like a lot of the rest of us, we don't really feel like that that's the solution to the problem and I think we need to look at some alternatives," said Mills.

The legislation calls for lowering sentencing guidelines for lower level offenses and creating alternative sentencing programs.

"We don't want dangerous people out on the streets," said Mills.

Mills says an alternative sentencing method like drug court could be an option other than jail time for lesser drug offenses, for example.

"I think the biggest reason that drug courts work is due to the fact that they have to be accountable," said Mills.

Mills says in Poinsett County they haven't had a jail overcrowding problem.

"If we keep going and there are no more beds in the Department of Corrections where do you think those folks are going to go? They're going to have to be held in the county jail and the next thing you know, you've got a situation in your county," said Mills.

The state commissioned study that showed Arkansas' prison population doubled over the last 20 years,  also indicated if no action was taken, it could end up costing the state over one billion dollars.

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