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Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders appointed the Department of Corrections’ chief of staff to take over the prisons agency as its cabinet secretary on Thursday.
Sanders’ appointment of Lindsay Wallace, who has been the agency’s chief of staff since 2020, came a day after the Republican governor spoke with each member of the Arkansas Board of Corrections, which must confirm Wallace’s appointment.
Sanders has been entangled in a months-long dispute with the prison oversight board over who has ultimate authority over Arkansas’ correctional system.
It wasn’t clear Thursday if Wallace’s appointment showed progress toward resolving differences between Sanders and the board, which has led to multiple lawsuits, but the direct communication was a marked difference from the public jabs the governor and board members have been exchanging for several weeks.
Lindsay, an attorney and the former head of the Arkansas Sentencing Commission, will now be tasked with navigating those fraught relationships.
“The safety of all Arkansans is my priority. I have a responsibility as Governor to ensure our Department of Corrections operates under qualified leadership,” Sanders said in a statement. “I know that Lindsay has the experience to lead the Department and will work diligently to expand prison capacity and end the failed policy of catch and early release.”
The secretary position opened last month when the prison board voted to fire then-Secretary Joe Profiri after a Pulaski County circuit judge ruled that the board had constitutional authority over the agency. Profiri is now a senior aide in the governor’s office with a $201,699 annual salary.
Profiri, who’d previously been Arizona’s deputy director of corrections, had been Sanders’ pick to lead the Arkansas agency, but he clashed with a majority of the board over a plan to add more than 600 temporary inmate beds to existing prison facilities. The board last week approved the last of those additional beds after the director of the Division of Correction eased members’ concerns about guard and inmate safety.
The board then voted to hire former state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams as interim secretary, but that lasted just five days before Williams resigned after Attorney General Tim Griffin challenged the board’s authority to unilaterally appoint a secretary.
Wallace first began working for the state in 2007 at the Department of Human Services before moving to the Sentencing Commission in 2009 and the Corrections Department in 2020. Wallace has continued in a leadership role at the agency in the wake of Profiri’s ouster.
Wallace said the appointment was an honor.
“Throughout my years in criminal justice work, I’ve seen how the status quo has failed crime victims, failed public safety, and failed our state,” she said in a statement. “I am committed to working with all stakeholders, the Governor, the legislature, and Board of Corrections to ensure we fix our corrections system. I’m glad the Governor has put her trust in me to do so.”
Arkansas Advocate is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arkansas Advocate maintains editorial independence. This article was published with permission from the Arkansas Advocate. Contact Editor Sonny Albarado for questions: [email protected]. Follow Arkansas Advocate on Facebook and Twitter.