Thursday, Jun 27, 2013
Legislature to Conduct Thorough Review of Parole Policies
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LITTLE ROCK - Legislators plan to review the policies and actions of the state Department of Community Correction, which has jurisdiction over paroled inmates when they are released from prison.
The importance of a thorough investigation into the parole system came to light when a Little Rock man was charged with murder, which he allegedly committed after repeatedly failing drug tests, failing to report to his parole officer and being charged with numerous felonies. In spite of his repeated pattern of criminal activity he was walking the streets.
The details of the Little Rock crime will dominate headlines over the summer, but legislators will not limit the scope of their review to that one case. They will want specifics on how many crimes are committed by inmates who are out of prison on parole, and how serious those offenses are.
At the same time legislators are conducting a thorough study of the parole system, the Arkansas State Police also will perform an administrative review of how parolees are supervised and how frequently they commit crimes.
According to the Community Correction Department, officers with medium and high risk cases will have an average of 70 parolees under their supervision, while officers with low risk cases will supervise an average of 250 parolees.
Last year the Community Correction Department supervised more than 52,000 parolees and people on probation. Ten years ago its officers supervised more than 40,000. Last year the Department employed 627 parole and probation officers and 80 people in its central office. Also, it hired 489 people to operate its six minimum security facilities, in which 1,042 inmates were housed.
The three most common offenses for which they were convicted were possession, manufacture or delivery of controlled substances, residential burglary and theft of property. About two-thirds of the inmates are men.
Also, the Community Correction Department works with the 41 drug courts in Arkansas.
The legislature enacted a package of bills earlier this year to strengthen laws governing parole violations and to make it tougher for repeat offenders to avoid incarceration. Act 1029 of 2013 requires the Parole Board to issue an arrest warrant for any parolee charged with a violent crime or a sex crime. The Department of Community Correction shall keep the Board informed when those charges are filed.
Act 485 repeals the eligibility of sex offenders and serious offenders to qualify for parole automatically. In other words, even if they accumulate meritorious good time they could only be released after the Parole Board reviews their record and approves.
Act 1030 tightens the definition of recidivism, the term used by prison officials to categorize repeat offenders. The act will provide lawmakers and the public with a more accurate picture of the prevalence of repeat offenders.
Suspension of lethal injection
The governor announced he would wait to set execution dates for seven men convicted of capital murder until the state has obtained a new source for the drugs used in lethal injection. The men are on death row and have exhausted their appeals.
The pharmaceutical manufacturer that produces the drug used for lethal injection is no longer supplying it to states that use it for capital punishment.
The most recent execution in Arkansas was in November of 2005.