LITTLE ROCK, AR (KAIT) - A bill that would seek to strengthen the state's crime victim notification system had cleared both the state House and Senate.
The Arkansas Legislature approved HB1045, sponsored by Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro. Under the bill, there would be an automatic notification by phone for crime victims.
According to the bill, a crime victim or their next of kin would be notified of an "inmate's, parolee's or probationer's status, including the location of the inmate, parolee or probationer; and a person's release or modification of a conditional release from the custody of the Arkansas State Hospital, a local or regional hospital, a local or regional mental health facility, or a local or regional jail to which the person has been committed by a court when the person committed a criminal act against the victim but was adjudicated in the criminal case to have a mental disease or defect."
Smith has worked on the bill for over a year. Under the original bill, a victim must be notified by the "Arkansas State Hospital, a local or regional hospital, local or regional mental health facility, local or regional jail or any other facility" at least 30 days before a release is set to happen. However, the bill was later amended after state officials questioned the cost of implementing the program.
Smith said he began working on the bill soon after seeing a story on Region 8 News. The story was about Lauren Hannah, a Jonesboro social worker who was stabbed with a butcher knife by a client in May 2014.
Hannah said the attack happened soon after a group therapy session.
"He brought the knife down and the first stab wound was to my knee. It split open to the bone and at that point, that's when it got real," Hannah told Region 8 News. "At that point, it was like I'm being attacked. I'm being stabbed!"
Hannah testified before the House committee earlier this year. Smith said he has received positive feedback from other lawmakers since filing the bill. The only negative impact has involved the cost of software upgrades and compliance costs to hospitals and healthcare providers, Smith said.
The bill now heads to Governor Asa Hutchinson's desk for approval.
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