PINE BLUFF, Ark. (KTHV) - Overcrowded state prison facilities remain an issue, but according to the Arkansas Department of Correction, numbers have lessened dramatically over the last year.
Despite the lull in numbers of state inmates, the Department of Correction utilized the Emergency Powers Act on Monday and has used the act consistently since 1998.
"I think everybody's goal is at some point not to have to use the Emergency Powers Act; I think everybody would like it. We already stopped using the one year EPA. That was for those offenders who were our best behaved, some of them could get out up to a year early depending on their crime and their behavior," said Dina Tyler, assistant director of the Arkansas Department of Correction.
Tyler said the past two years brought extreme ups and downs for the state.
"Our backup has gone from more than 2,000 to todayit's 437, which is higher than it's been," said Tyler.
In 2010, the department saw a spike of inmates at more than 80 added per month, and then in 2011, the department saw a drastic shift with inmates declining by 95 a month. Tyler attributed the decline of inmates to legislative pressure.
"There was so much attention paid to our growth plight because of Act 570 that I think that really changed a lot of actions by the courts because now we've seen not as many inmates being sent to prison," said Tyler.
Act 570 lowered the criminal penalties for drugs and theft and put many on probation instead of in prison.
"Save the more expensive prison beds for the inmates that are most threatening," said Tyler.
The ADC now moves smaller offenses up the backup list to get them through the system quicker and keep them from staying in the system for extra time. Before this change, Tyler said some inmates would spend three to six months in additional time.