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President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang
President Pro Tempore
Arkansas Senate
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500 Woodlane St. Ste 320
Little Rock, AR 72201-1090

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501-682-6107

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91st General Assembly
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State Prison Budget Exceeds $300 Million a Year in General Revenue

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LITTLE ROCK - The Arkansas Correction Department, which operates state prison units holding about 15,000 inmates, will receive about $306 million in general revenue funding next fiscal year.
That's an increase from $276 million this year. The increase will pay for higher health care costs and for 232 positions to operate a new special needs unit at Malvern. The special needs unit, for geriatric and chronically ill inmates, will open with 680 new beds.
In all, the Correction Department has an authorized staff of 4,667 people who operate 20 units. About 61 percent of the inmates in Arkansas are in minimum security, 26 percent are in medium security units and 13 percent are in maximum security units.
Of the inmates in Arkansas prisons, 46 percent committed a violent crime and 54 percent a non-violent offense. The cost to the state for prisons is close to $21,000 per inmate per year.
At seven prison units the inmates grow livestock and crops. By far the largest farm operation is at the Cummins Unit in Lincoln County, where inmates work about 17,000 acres. The principal row crops are cotton, wheat, soybeans and rice. The inmates also raise livestock, poultry and garden vegetables for their own consumption. They work in a slaughterhouse and process vegetables for freezing and storing.
The Wrightsville and Tucker Units each have 5,000 acres of farm land. At Tucker the inmates grow garden vegetables and row crops, and at Wrightsville they raise livestock.
Inmates also work in industry programs. Last year they produced more than $6.6 million of products and services such furniture, clothes, janitorial services and welding.
Vo-tech classes for inmates include computer repair, mechanics, plumbing, carpentry, heating and air conditioning, graphic arts, landscaping, food service, cosmetology and welding. Last year about 1,000 inmates enrolled in a vo-tech class.
Prisoners are encouraged to work toward getting a GED, which is the equivalent of a high school diploma. Prison instructors awarded GEDs to 873 inmates last year.
Many inmates have to go into treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. Drug offenses are the most common reason for admission to a state prison, for example last year 2,078 inmates were admitted on drug convictions. The second highest category was for burglary; 849 inmates were imprisoned for burglary convictions last year.
About half the inmates, 51 percent, are white and 46 percent are black. Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians account for the rest. Women make up 8 percent of the prison population.
School Choice Law
The legislature did not pass any new laws affecting school choice because of a lack of agreement among the interested parties, which include administrators and superintendents, state education officials, parents and attorneys.
They will continue to work on possible changes in the school choice law over the summer. There are parents who want more freedom of choice so they can transfer their children to school districts outside of the one in which they live.
Education officials caution that too much choice could lead to a re-segregation of public schools.

 


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