State prison population on the rise - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

State prison population on the rise

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) -A new report shows a spike in Arkansas' prison population. According to a new report presented to the Arkansas Board of Corrections, the state's prison population increased 17.7 percent.

The report attributed the increase to the number of parolees sent back to prison and an increase the number of offenders who receive prison sentences instead of probation for nonviolent crimes.

"Right now we're somewhere between 20 and 25% that are housed at our facility that go to prison," said jail administrator, John Cawley with the Greene County Sheriff's Department. "It's definitely increase. It's increased over the past year and a half." 

Cawley said their new facility will help with the overcrowding but right now they are trying to make do.

"Generally speaking it's somewhere between 35 and 45 at a given month that we are going to house at our facility," he said. "And that's just our county inmates that we house that are going to prison not excluding other counties that we might bring in to help them out."

And inmates who are transferred to a state prison are generally arrested on drug-related charges.

"The majority of crimes are controlled substance crimes you know possession of controlled substance or a theft crime," Cawley said. "The theft is in correlation to have possession or vice versa the possession you get put out for that theft charge so the two run hand in hand, the possession charge or a theft charge."

Cawley said this sudden increase in the state's prison population can be linked to a new law implemented last year.

"Arkansas Department of Corrections decided that they were going to start sending people who were on parole with new filing charges, they would automatically be sent back known as a parole violator," he said. "These folks are coming out of the ADC system coming back to our community and committing a new crime and automatically forced to go back to prison regardless of the crime."

The latest recidivism study posted in 2012 revealed within one year 20% of inmates return to prison.

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