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August 15, 2011

The persistent challenges of sentencing reform efforts on display in Arkansas

This interesting local article from Arkansas, which is headlined "New sentencing law already being questioned; hearing set," spotlights that opponents of legislative sentencing reform rarely go away after enactment and will sometimes clamor for reform of reforms even before the ink is dry.  Here is hw the piece starts:

Less than a month old, state prison reforms intended to ease overcrowding and slow the rise of prison costs are already being criticized as overly burdensome and, in come cases, too lenient.   A legislative hearing is scheduled for Sept. 23 to field concerns.  The most vocal critics are lawmakers who opposed legislation during this year’s regular session that became Act 570 of 2011.

“We knew all along that change scares people,” said Matt DeCample, spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, who pushed the new guidelines.  “I doubt that they’re going to get much useful information, but we’re not going to resist anyone’s efforts to meet and talk about things.”

Critics complain some of new guidelines pose potential hardships for county sheriffs while others, including reducing the penalty for possession of less than a half-ounce of marijuana from a felony to a misdemeanor, are just not right.  “I continue to believe that this is not the best route for us to take to reduce our prison costs,” said Rep. Nate Bell, R-Mena.  He and Rep. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, asked for a hearing next month before the Legislative Joint Performance Review Committee.

Bell said it’s not too soon to start asking questions about the law, which took affect July 27.   “It is too early to assess the affects of the law, obviously, but I believe that the folks that are directly impacted with having to implement it … ought to have their voices heard at this point,” he said.

Supporters of Act 570 say they welcome the opportunity to meet discuss the new law, but they questioned the timing.  Sen. Jim Luker, D-Wynne, who sponsored the bill, said he hopes Bell and Sanders don’t revisit arguments against the law they raised during the session.  “I could see this as being a positive if they want to know where we are,” Luker said.  “Now if they’re coming at us from a totally negative point of view, if they are rejecting something before it’s even had the opportunity to be implemented, I think that’s rather short-sighted.”

The sentencing reforms were enacted in response to a 2010 study by the Pew Center’s Public Safety Performance project, which found that the state’s prison population has doubled in the past 20 years to more than 16,000 and that housing ever more inmates could cost the state $1.1 billion over the next decade.  The reforms and new guidelines could save the state about $875 million over the next decade, the Pew study said.

Act 570 provides for lesser sentences for some nonviolent offenders and mostly drug-related crimes.  The law also makes some nonviolent offenders eligible for parole earlier, with electronic monitoring as a condition of early release in some cases.

August 15, 2011 at 09:08 AM | Permalink

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Comments

hmm call me silly but this!

“It is too early to assess the affects of the law, obviously, but I believe that the folks that are directly impacted with having to implement it … ought to have their voices heard at this point,”

SHOULD HAVE been done BEFORE you implemented it!

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 15, 2011 10:55:14 AM

Pew Foundation is a left wing propaganda organization devoid of credibility. They are liars and traitors, who hate the USA.

No one calculated the cost of having a released criminal move in next door. All released prisoners should move in a house next to any judge stupid enough to release them.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 15, 2011 4:04:39 PM

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Posted by: Tommy Hilfiger | Aug 15, 2011 9:23:35 PM

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