Parole and Probation Reforms
The Arkansas General Assembly's Act 570 of 2011 greatly improved the parole process and lessened the recidivism rate through reforms that kept offenders from being senselessly reincarcerated without trial. These reforms resulted in a three-year reduction in the recidivism rate and decreased the populations of previously overcrowded jails.
However, several pieces of legislation since 2013 have undone the progress of Act 570 and caused the incarceration and recidivism rate to skyrocket once again with no corresponding increase in crime. There is no reason for this to continue, and legislative reforms should be enacted to ensure that it does not.
Parole Eligibility Reforms
Following states like California, Arkansas should create a category of non-revocable parole for individuals with a low risk of recidivism. These people would be released from prison without community supervision and not subject to revocation unless they commit a new crime. With this category in place, California decreased its incarceration rate by 25% from 2008 to 2013 while simultaneously decreasing its crime rate by 11%.
Arkansas currently does not allow any person sentenced to life in prison to make parole. Because 8% of the state's prison population is serving a life sentence, a significant portion of those incarcerated in Arkansas are elderly and pose no threat to society. However, because they are ineligible for parole, they will remain in prison until their deaths. Taxpayers shoulder the costs for this senseless incarceration. Like Louisiana, Arkansas should allow individuals sentenced to life in prison the opportunity to make parole.