Violent crime is on the rise and deadly substances such as Fentanyl are rampant in our communities. As your representative, I will work to make our communities safer and advocate for victims.
Arkansans are facing serious crime problems that cannot be ignored. The tragic reporting this year has shown that Arkansas ranks FIRST in the nation for child sex abuse cases per 100,000 children, and 2nd for rapes per 100,000 adults. In addition to this, the murder rates in Arkansas is 10.6 per 100,000 people, ranking third in the country.
We must ensure that criminals understand there are serious consequences for destructive behavior, while at the same time understanding that mental health and rehabilitation is a cornerstone of any successful justice system.
County jails have been over-burned due to shortages in the state prisons. If county jails are to reduce their backlog, we must dedicate the necessary resources to state facilities. In addition, we need to shift our focus from criminals to victims. To guarantee basic legal protections for victims of crime, Arkansas needs to enact a victim’s bill of rights.
The parole system must be empowered to better evaluate whether an inmate has been sufficiently rehabilitated before their release. Currently, parole officers have a very large caseload of 90 to 120 parolees on average which makes their job incredibly difficult and as a result, creates an increased risk of a parolee reoffending. Mental health evaluation and treatment has become backlogged as well. To conduct successful rehabilitation, the justice system must be able to increase the number of effective mental health programs offered to incarcerated individuals in need.
It has become common for criminals to move through a “revolving door” and become eligible for parole after serving only a sixth of their sentence and re-entry programs are struggling to keep up. In some cases with the current system, some offenders with a ten-year sentence are being released in less than a year. The legislature must pass smart, highly targeted legislation for Truth in Sentencing to protect our communities from violent, repeat offenders.
The Arkansas Division of Workforce Services has made tremendous strides along with other programs to assist in providing opportunities for individuals to learn valuable skills and gain quality employment. Allowing individuals to become a productive member of society after their release is a key element of reducing recidivism and lowering the overall crime rate.