Attorney General Jeff Sessions Visits Arkansas, Discusses Violent Crime, School Safety

Aug 2, 2018

U.S. Atttorney General Jeff Sessions (left) greets U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland at Wednesday's press conference in Little Rock.
Credit Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Arkansas on Wednesday for a pair of events. Speaking at the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, he called for a fix to a Supreme Court ruling regarding violent offenders. Sessions later joined Gov. Asa Hutchinson and other officials near Hot Springs to discuss school safety.

The 2015 decision by the nation’s high court, which redefined how a violent offender is categorized in the legal system, led to the release of more than 1,400 violent criminals. Most of them went on to commit more crimes, Sessions said, and victimize additional people.

"This court decision has led to the release of a lot of dangerous criminals, including one right here in Little Rock. Eight months after he was released from prison under the Johnson case ruling, he was rearrested for aggravated assault and domestic battery. A year after that, he was arrested for kidnapping, rape, aggravated assault, battery and terroristic threats."

Sessions told the group of law enforcement and political leaders at the U.S. Attorney’s office that Congress needs to fix the law and close the loophole. Otherwise, he said, it will impede efforts to keep career criminals off the streets.

"Releasing repeat offenders into the community has consequences, it has cost, and those of us who have been around know that. Every crime committed by a recidivist released under this court case would not have happened if the law had been enforced or had been written better by Congress. Every one of their victims would not have been victimized," Session said.

The attorney general did not take questions from reporters at the Little Rock event. He also did not comment on a tweet from President Trump earlier in the day calling for Sessions to stop the Russia investigation.

Sessions then traveled to the town of Pearcy where he took part in a roundtable discussion on school safety with the governor and U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs). The Associated Press reports Sessions told the crowd at Lake Hamilton High School that there is no single solution for addressing school shootings.

Police, teachers, administrators and parents took part in the event. Some expressed concerns about how to best spot warning signs on social media.

Earlier this year Hutchinson created the Arkansas School Safety Commission to study ways to protect schools. The panel issued a preliminary report last month with 19 recommendations for school officials to implement before the start of the new school year this month.

Key among the findings was that each school should have at least one person who would be armed and ready to respond to a violent attack. Other safety measures that have been implemented and were discussed Wednesday include employing more school resource officers and increasing counseling services.

KATV, Channel 7 in Little Rock assisted in this report by providing raw audio of Sessions' press conference. Details of the event at Lake Hamilton High School came from reporting by the Associated Press.