LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — A new study released by the American Civil Liberties Union highlights the prison overcrowding issues happening in our state.
Part of ACLU’s Smart Justice 50-State Blueprints project provides a state-by-state analysis of how states can transform their criminal justice systems and cut incarceration in half.
This study shows that Arkansas has one of the fastest-growing prison populations in the nation and it’s expected to continue increasing.
In 2018, nearly 18,000 people were imprisoned in Arkansas and within the next ten years, it’s expected to grow by nine percent.
ACLU of Arkansas’ Legal Director, Holly Dickson, told KATV the state has spent millions of dollars on corrections, but overcrowding continues to be an issue.
“What we’re looking for is a holistic approach to how we approach crime in this state,” said Dickson. “To do more in the prevention and investing those dollars in things that make sense and lift up the population of the State of Arkansas and the state as a whole, rather than continuing to build more and more prisons and lock up more and more people.”
Dickson added that it was shocking to learn that the state doesn’t collect data on its criminal punishment or juvenile system. She hopes policymakers will take note of the data collected over a two-year period.
“We need a more robust and adequate public defender system; our public defender caseloads are astronomical. We need more attorneys,” she said.
“65 percent of people who are housed in county jails were pre-trial detainees and more likely there because they could not afford to pay bail, good public defenders can help ensure just and adequate sensible results.”
Part of this study also highlights positive pieces of legislation lawmakers have passed in Arkansas, click here to read the BluePrints for Arkansas.