Budget Increase to Lead to More Arkansas Parole Officers, Drug Courts

NORFORK, AR - An 18 percent increase in the Department of Community Corrections budget will pay for expanded drug courts and more parole officers.

Officials say the state's 412 parole officers now average 112 cases apiece.  The budget increase, approved by legislators this year, will lead to more officers in high-caseload areas like Little Rock, Benton, Arkadelphia and parts of northwest Arkansas.

The new appropriations total $14 million, and 3.1 million of that will go toward 60 new parole officers.

The money will also pay for a new drug court in Danville and expansions at the state's 37 existing drug courts, officials said.

About $3 million is to be spent on rehabilitating the former Washington County jail into a Community Correction detention facility for nonviolent offenders.  The revamped building is expected to have 170 beds and open in January, most likely for female prisoners.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)