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Governor Sanders signs the Protect Act and wants to build more jails



Little Rock, Arkansas – Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been receiving the last bills from this legislative session, and on Tuesday she gave her approval to a proposal to imprison violent repeat offenders in the state, expand prison capacity, and toughen penalties for drug crimes.

More specifically, the Tuesday afternoon signed Protect Arkansas Act places restrictions on parole.

Those convicted guilty of major crimes, including as second-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault, must serve 85% of their sentences before becoming eligible for supervised release, which will begin in 2025.

People convicted of very heinous crimes like capital murder or rape will no longer be eligible for parole at all starting the next year, in 2024.

“It’s no mistake that Arkansas has one of the highest violent crime rates in America. The legislation I sign will put an end to that failed status quo,” Governor Sanders said. “No more revolving door in our prisons, and no more weak sentencing and no more unsafe streets.”

Carl Minden, the chief of the Bryant Police Department, expressed his hope that this will reduce the existing high rate of repeat arrests.

“It’s just a repetitious process of just catching the same person just let them go,” Minden explained.

He continued by saying that the overpopulation of state prisoners who fill local jails is partly to blame for this discontent.

“Anytime one of the officers makes an arrest for low-level misdemeanor crimes, they’re not taken to jail,” he described.

The administration also intends to increase prison capacity by 3,000 beds, and Governor Sanders has requested $470 million to make that possible.

Sheriff Rodney Wright of Saline County believes the expansion will aid in the work of the police.

“Right now there’s overcrowding in all of our local jails. The additional 3,000 coming down the line, again, it helps us get back to misdemeanor justice,” Wright said.

The act will provide millions of dollars in incentives to bring more correctional personnel to Arkansas, according to Governor Sanders.

The state’s Secretary of Corrections, Joe Profiri, stated that he hopes to open 500 extra beds at existing facilities soon, while it is unclear when new prison construction will begin.

The “death by delivery” statute, which enables the state to charge fentanyl traffickers with murder and impose a life sentence, was also signed into law by the governor on Tuesday.