Corrections Chief Says He Hopes to See Prison Expansions

NOVEMBER 15, 2006 - Posted at 7:39 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Beds to accomodate about 1,400 more prisoners are in the plans of the state Correction Department over the next few years.

Correction Department director Larry Norris told legislators yesterday that his agency now has 13,925 inmates, including 543 being held in county jails as they wait for space to open up in a state prison unit.  Norris said the number of inmates grows by about 400 a year.

The agency's budget request for the coming fiscal years includes money to open the 862-bed Ouachita River Correctional Facility Special-Needs Unit being built at Malvern and a 200-bed addition to the McPherson Unit outside Newport that's now under construction.

The department is seeking $284 million in general revenue in fiscal 2008, up from $259 million for the current year, 2007, and $300 million in fiscal 2009.  The agency also wants $4.2 million from the General Improvement Fund to build a 300-bed minimum-security unit at the Cummins Unit.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)