Asa Hutchinson Wants to Ease Prison Overcrowding
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Monday he is committed to finding funds during the current legislative session for additional prison space to relieve prison overcrowding.
“At first I thought, well maybe we can delay this to down the road, maybe have a special session later on, have more time to look at the solution,” Hutchinson said in a speech to the Arkansas County Judges Association in North Little Rock.
“But clearly, based upon my conversations with you, action is needed now,” he said. “There’s an urgency here. So I will be asking the Legislature to take up this issue before we go home.”
The statement drew loud applause from the group.
Hutchinson said he hopes to avoid building a new 1,000-bed prison, however. State prison officials have said a new prison is needed, but Hutchinson has not included funding for a new prison in his proposed balanced budget, and legislative leaders say the idea lacks support from lawmakers.
“The solution that we come up with should not be limited to additional prison space,” Hutchinson said. “The solution that we come up with and provide to the Legislature has to include an effort to change behavior. I feel very strongly about this, because I have no doubt that unless we change behavior then we’re going to be building a 1,000(-bed) new prison followed by another 1,000-bed new prison.”