Lawmakers criticize community corrections

    8:18 PM, Jul 24, 2013   |    comments
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    Video: Lawmakers criticize community corrections

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP/KTHV) - Lawmakers are continuing to criticize the Arkansas Department of Community Correction after a parolee allegedly killed a man in May.

    Legislators aired more frustrations Wednesday as they talked with the agency's interim director, Sheila Sharp, and other corrections officials during a joint meeting of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

    However, Mary Parker, the vice chair of the Board of Corrections, said the Department of Community Correction is working to address problems with the parole system.

    So far, the board has announced changes, including some about jailing parolees.

    Parker said the board expects to see a report about an investigation into the parole system in early August. She added that more changes could follow that report.

    Wednesday's discussion comes after a parolee was accused of killing a Fayetteville man in May.

    Little Rock Mayor, Mark Stodola addressed the positives and negatives of law enforcement in Little Rock at a legislative hearing on Wednesday.

    "When they go out here and arrest somebody, and they know that they've arrested them a month before and that they're already on parole and not back in confinement, it is a very, very frustrating and depressing situation," explained Stodola.

    He said even though felonies have fallen significantly since the 90's, holes in the parole system let criminals repeatedly back on the streets.

    "When somebody continues to break into a house, they want to know, 'Why can't the police do something about it?' Well it's not the police. The police are doing their job. They're arresting the people. They're just not being held, not being kept," added Stodola.

    Stodola said police clear 20 percent of burglary cases, which is higher than the national average of 13 percent. The mayor said based on police data, 75 percent of parolees commit crimes again.

    State Senator Eddie Joe Williams said the legislature will make the investment to get the system fixed.

    "Money should never be a reason not to create a safe environment. So, I don't think funding is even on the table at this point. Now we're not going to waste money, but for someone to use the excuse that we're going to let someone out because there's not enough money and that person got out and committed a heinous crime, that's unacceptable," said Williams.

    There was a lot of discussion and debate about revisiting Act 570. The 2011 measure lowered criminal penalties for drugs and theft, and put many on probation instead of in prison.

    (The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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