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The Helena Arkansas Daily World - Helena, AR
  • Report shows spike in Arkansas prison population

  • Arkansas' prison population increased by 17.7 percent last year, likely due to tougher policies enacted after a repeat parole absconder was charged in the death of a teenager, a new consultant's report found.
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  • Arkansas' prison population increased by 17.7 percent last year, likely due to tougher policies enacted after a repeat parole absconder was charged in the death of a teenager, a new consultant's report found.
    The report presented Tuesday to the Arkansas Board of Corrections found that the state had 14,627 inmates at the end of 2012. By the end of 2013, that number had jumped to 17,211 inmates.
    "I have been doing this for 20 years. This is unprecedented growth in the prison system," said Wendy Ware of JFA Associates, a nonprofit research institute that studies and evaluates state and federal correction systems across the nation.
    The institute's report found two factors for the sharp increase. First, more parole-revocation hearings were held, leading to more parolees getting sent back to prison. Second, there was an increase in offenders who received prison sentences instead of probation for nonviolent crimes like theft, burglary or drug charges.
    The increase of 17.7 percent in a year "is more than substantial. That is record-breaking. It's also unsustainable," Ware said.
    Darrell Dennis, an eight-time parole absconder, was arrested and charged in a May 10 kidnapping and killing in Little Rock. That case led the state to enact tougher punishments for parole absconders and measures aimed at making it harder for parolees to be released from jail while they await revocation hearings.
    The number of monthly revocation hearings soared from 29 to 170 last year, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1koQAq5 ) Wednesday.
    "We had to get parole violators' attention," corrections board chairman Benny Magness said. "We were lax, and now we're paying for it."
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