Overcrowded Prisons May Be on Legislative Agenda

DECEMBER 13, 2004 - Posted at 7:37 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Prison overcrowding has prompted some legislators to consider reviewing sentencing laws in the upcoming legislative session.  Governor Huckabee proposed increasing funding for the Arkansas Department of Correction by $38 million to $244 million for the next fiscal year.

Last week, the state had 13,453 prisoners, with 918 of them in county jails because there isn't enough space in the state prisons.

Incoming House Speaker Bill Stovall of Quitman says the corrections budget is in a "death spiral," and restructuring the sentencing guidelines might be the only way to curb it.

On the state Senate side, incoming Senate President Pro Tem Jim Argue says he wants legislators to study alternative punishment for lesser crimes to take some of the pressure off the strained system.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)