After Parole Leniency Law, Number Returning to Arkansas Prisons Drops

The number of people sent to Arkansas' prisons for violating their terms of probation or parole fell more than 41 percent in 2017, as a new law went into effect that was aimed at stemming the surge in population.

By John Mortiz

The number of people sent to Arkansas' prisons for violating their terms of probation or parole fell more than 41 percent in 2017, as a new law went into effect that was aimed at stemming the surge in population.

And, for the first time in at least six years, the number of offenders entering probation was more than those going into prison, corrections officials were told Monday in an annual progress report on the prison population.

But the good news came along with more humbling statistics for a prison system already filled beyond its capacity: The number of state prisoners is expected to grow by 0.9 percent annually over the next decade, adding about 1,869 incarcerated people in one of the nation's most heavily incarcerated states.

The Arkansas Department of Correction is responsible for about 18,000 prisoners -- with about 1,600 housed in county jails -- but that number is expected to grow to 19,947 by 2028, according to a report completed for the department by Denver-based JFA Associates.

The prison system's capacity is 15,212. Not counting other inmates held by the Arkansas State Police, in county jails or at a contracted lockup in Texas, the system housed 15,552 people Monday.

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