Gubernatorial Candidates Consider Reforms For Arkansas's Criminal Justice System

Oct 1, 2018

Jared Henderson (center), was joined by Luke Kramer (left) of the Starr Coalition, and Morgan Leyenberger (right) of Decarcerate, as he shared his plan for reducing Arkansas's incarceration rates.
Credit David Monteith / KUAR News

Reducing the number of people in Arkansas prisons is one of the goals of gubernatorial candidate Jared Henderson.

Monday Henderson released his plan for reforming Arkansas’s criminal justice system to address what he calls the "epidemic of mass incarceration" in the state.

"We've seen in recent years that the public's faith and accountability in this [criminal justice] system has been tested and damaged, as we've seen deaths in our system and as we've seen botched handling related to the execution of prisoners. We need more transparency to restore trust and just to do the right thing by our people, by our budget," Henderson said.

Henderson's approach includes reforming a system which requires cash for bail, and also increasing funding for staff responsible for parole and probation.

According to recent reports, the state is considering relinquishing control of some prisons to private companies.

"I am categorically against privatizing prisons," said Henderson. "There's simply no evidence that I'm aware of that private prisons really provide any meaningful bang for their buck to taxpayers. And I think for that reason alone we shouldn't even be considering them in this state."

Jamie Barker, a spokesman for Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson says, much of Henderson's plan is redundant with strategies already put in place by the governor. Barker added that private contractors have been used in the past to manage prisoners in the state.

"These are designed for medium or low security risk inmates," said Barker. "We will continue to review the best options for the future."

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit that studies prison populations and conditions, Arkansas has the sixth highest rate of incarceration in the country.