The Helena World spoke with State Representative Chris Richey (D) Monday morning about his workload for the coming week. Richey cited two major bills on which he will be busily engaged this week – prison reform and the Arkansas scholarship lottery.

The Helena World spoke with State Representative Chris Richey (D) Monday morning about his workload for the coming week. Richey cited two major bills on which he will be busily engaged this week – prison reform and the Arkansas scholarship lottery.

Governor Asa Hutchinson announced last week his intentions for a prison reform legislation, which would free up some much-needed space in crowded prisons around the state.

Richey told The Helena World, "There are 2,500 state prisoners being held in county jails waiting for beds. We have a major overcrowding issue."

Richey continued, "Instead of building a new jail or a new prison at $100 million, he came up with a different plan, which would open up 700 new beds through different ways."

One of the more controversial aspects of the governor's plan to create more space in the crowded Arkansas prison system includes sending 250 inmates to Buie County Texas at $36 per day, but "some of Arkansas' counties were only getting paid $28 per day for the prisoners they are housing."

Richey added, "But we are increasing that to $30 in this budget."

Another aspect of the prison reform bill Richey told The Helena World about included re-entry programs for reformed inmates in Arkansas prisons.

"We don't want to put them back in the same place they were," said Richey. "Over the long term I think this will be one of the biggest solutions for this overcrowding issue."

Another major issue in which Richey is engaged this week includes the reorganization of the Arkansas scholarship lottery. The lottery commission currently administers the lottery. Governor Hutchinson, however, wants to see the lottery under the control of the Department of Finance and Administration.

"Basically you would be getting rid of the independent commission that oversees the lottery now and you would be putting it under a state agency."

Richey admitted, "I have some concerns about that because you have an entity that is supposed to run like a business and produce a profit and we are putting it under a state agency which is not designed to do that."