HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is currently seeking $7.4 million in funding from the state to open 200 additional prison beds to ease the backlog of inmates being housed at local jails.
Hutchinson told the Arkansas State Sheriffs Association that he would ask lawmakers to approve of funding in about 18 months for the Pine Bluff Prison facility. “I’m asking for your patience and your support and to recognize that there is hope around the corner,” Hutchinson said in a statement.
The $7.4 million would be in addition to the $33 million plan lawmakers approved earlier in the year to address overcrowding. The $33 million is currently being used to open new space, hire additional parole offices, and expand the use of alternative sentencing programs at Pine Bluff Prison.
The state of Arkansas has opened 526 new prison beds since Hutchinson took office in January. By the end of his term, he hopes to open an additional 500 re-entry beds used for inmates about to be released. This past year, 2,620 inmates were being housed in county jails, which are down from 2,840 from the year before.
Corrections officials originally called for a $100 million, 1,000-bed prison, but neither Hutchinson nor lawmakers supported the plan.
Hutchinson believes that helping the inmates to become acclimated to society after being placed on parole is also very important. He has said, “If we can change behavior in that context, it gives us hope that not only are we going to keep our streets safe, but it gives us hope also that we’re not going to continually use tax-payers’ dollars to build bigger and larger prisons.” He plans to have a formal request for funding in the hands of a legislative committee the first few weeks of August.