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Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders unveiled the Safer, Stronger Arkansas Legislative Package and The Protect Arkansas Act on March 27 alongside Attorney General Tim Griffin, bill cosponsors Senator Ben Gilmore and Representative Jimmy Gazaway, Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Director of Arkansas State Police Mike Hagar, Secretary of Corrections Joe Profiri, and law enforcement officials.
Sanders’ communication team released a graphic to media that highlighted stricter ‘truth in sentencing’ applying to crimes committed after Jan. 1 2025. It will eliminate parole for what is deemed as the most heinous offenses for crimes such as murder, rape, human trafficking or child sex abuse. Offenders will serve 100% of their sentence for any of the above.
Sanders’ administration says that those convicted of rape currently only serve 70% of their sentence, with those convicted of second-degree murder serving 25% of their sentence and manslaughter serving only 17% of their sentence.
Under the new Protect Act, convicted felons of rape will serve 100%, second-degree murder and manslaughter convictions will serve at least 85% of their sentence.
The Protect Act will also create a mental health pilot program in partnership with DHS to prepare defendants for trials in less restrictive and less expensive settings. In addition, reentry and workforce training will be provided.
Lastly, on the fiscal side, the new act boasts the creation of a new prison with 3,000 beds, a new state trooper school, $5 million in overtime pay for state troopers, and increased pay for correctional officers.
The new prison has been reported to have an estimated price tag of $470 million and an additional $31 million in operating costs.
According to the Arkansas Division of Correction, the state’s prisons are about 106% above capacity.