Legislative committee reviews recidivism report

On Monday this week, the House and Senate Judiciary Committees met in conjunction with the Arkansas Legislative Council’s Charitable, Penal, and Correctional Institutions Subcommittee.

Members reviewed reports from the Department of Corrections regarding the current prison population and recidivism rates.

Currently, the recidivism rate for the entire department is 46.1%. This breaks down into 47.8% for the Corrections Division and 37.5% for the Community Corrections Division.

In Arkansas, recidivism is defined as an arrest, conviction, or reincarceration within 3 years of an individual’s release from a correctional facility.

Arkansas’ recidivism definition makes it difficult to compare with other states, but Corrections Secretary Solomon Graves told members that Arkansas’ recidivism rate was “unacceptably high.”

Secretary Graves told members they would take an honest and possibly unpopular look at current programs to gauge their effectiveness. He added that this is a problem that the government cannot solve alone. It will take a collaborative effort of advocacy groups and faith-based organizations.

To draw attention to the issue, the Governor has proclaimed April 26 as Reintegration Awareness Week.

The proclamation states that at least 90% of state prison inmates will be released at some point in their sentence. He goes on to say that because a high recidivism rate increases the cost of corrections and puts citizens of Arkansas at greater risk of becoming victims of crime, it is imperative that offenders who return to community have the programs, services and support they need to become productive citizens. of State.

Committee members also received information showing that about two-fifths of people entering prison do not have a high school diploma or GED. The research presented also showed that incarcerated individuals who participate in post-secondary education in prison are 48% less likely to re-offend than those who do not.

The Division of Correction’s prison population is currently 15,089. There are 1,528 inmates in county jails awaiting transfer.

In the last fiscal session, the General Assembly increased county jail reimbursements by $6.4 million. The General Assembly also approved the transfer of $150 million for various one-time funding projects, including the construction of prisons.

In the months ahead, members will continue to consult with the Department of Corrections regarding prison population, recidivism and ways to improve this critical issue.

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