Arkansas Legislative Council approves governor’s intensive probation plan for high-risk offenders

Governor Asa Hutchinson’s plan to tap $1.09 million in state one-time funds to expand the state’s Division of Community Corrections intensive supervision program for high-risk parolees in the center of Arkansas walked through the Arkansas Legislative Council on Friday.

The division’s request to create 14 new parole/probation officers for the expanded program also passed through the Legislative Council without any question from lawmakers.

On April 5, Hutchinson announced plans to expand supervision of high-risk parolees in central Arkansas in an effort to help curb rising violent crime. He said the proposed expansion would add 10 officers, who will cover Lonoke, Jefferson, Pulaski, Faulkner and Saline counties. The current program has four officers.

The state’s Division of Community Corrections has requested 14 new positions to permanently assign the current four officers to the intensive supervision program and add 10 more officers to the program, the department’s spokeswoman said Tuesday. of State Corrections, Cindy Murphy.

The 14 new positions have a salary range of $46,391 to $58,493 per year.

Officers assigned to the Intensive Supervision Team will receive up to a 10% pay differential for hazardous duties based on the inherent risk of the assigned workload, said state personnel administrator Kay Barnhill.

Asked when the Department expects the new positions to be filled to enable them to begin working with parolees in central Arkansas, Murphy said in a written statement on Friday that “we will begin the process of filling vacancies immediately once they become available for posting”.

“We will be conducting interviews for each of the positions in early May, if not sooner,” she said.

Six of the positions will be allocated to Pulaski County and two positions will be allocated to each of Faulkner, Jefferson Lonoke and Saline counties, Department of Corrections Secretary Solomon Graves said in an April 5 letter to Barnhill.

The intensive supervision team will be assigned high-risk offenders who have a history of violence or gang affiliation, he said.

“The goal is to provide evidence-based supervision to high-risk offenders while maintaining maximum supervision,” Graves wrote in his letter to Barnhill.

Barnhill said the addition of the requested 14 positions will increase the total number of authorized Community Corrections Division positions to 1,494. The 14 positions will bring a minimum cost of $649,474, which is included in the initial cost of 1 $.09 million to implement the expansion, she said.

“The ongoing funding for this request is approximately $820,395 per year,” she wrote in a letter dated Wednesday to the co-chairs of the Legislative Council Personnel Subcommittee, Sen. David Wallace, R-Leachville. , and Rep. David Hillman, R-Almyra.

The Community Corrections Division reinstated the monitoring program in 2017 after an early morning shooting at the Power Ultra Lounge in Little Rock left more than two dozen people injured. Murphy said the program made 54 arrests in fiscal year 2021 and confiscated 28 weapons and $81,000 in cash.

Asked when the new positions will begin to have a noticeable impact on the increase in violence in central Arkansas, Murphy said on Friday that “although there is no way to predict a time precise, it will become clear very quickly to the populations of parolees and probationers that we are saturating central Arkansas.

“Crime is not exclusively a state matter,” she said in a written statement. “While we are an important and committed part of the law enforcement community, local officials (executive, prosecutors, judiciary, etc.) also have an important role to play. Our efforts will only be part of an effective solution.”

The Legislative Council also approved three other requests for one-time public funds on Friday:

• Request by Amy Fecher, Secretary of the Department of Transformation and Shared Services, for $1.2 million in state-limited reserve funds to support the office’s purchase of Geographic Information Systems from Arkansas statewide updated aerial imagery.

The bureau last purchased that statewide image database in 2017 with one-time funding and it has become obsolete, Fecher said in a March 16 letter to the secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration, Larry Walther.

• Commerce Secretary Mike Preston’s request for $453,000 in limited state reserve funds for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission to provide a grant to the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance .

Kathy Webb, executive director of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, said Friday the funds will go to capacity-building grants to food pantries across the state to help them with freezers, refrigerators, shelving, and more. . and for a Food Desert Study to make recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly on ways to improve access to healthy food.

• Hutchinson’s request for $292,000 in state rainy day funding for Arkansas Rehabilitation Services from the Department of Commerce to support security services at the former job training institute of the Arkansas to Hot Springs.

Commerce Department spokeswoman Alisha Curtis said Wednesday that “Pending legislative approval, an Armed Security Contract would be effective in May or June 2022.

The tender for a contract is in, but no contract has been finalized, she said.

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