LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Governor Asa Hutchinson has called on the Arkansas Department of Correction to address recent security issues and assaults at multiple prison facilities.
Correction Director Wendy Kelley is confident their plan will make a difference, but has concerns related to staffing. There was a lot of discussion at Wednesday’s general assembly meeting around the three-key action plan released Tuesday, but even more talk about correction officer openings and issues to retain qualified employees. Kelley wants the state to know that applicants aren’t not knocking down the door.
"The two most high-profile incidents happened towards the end of September, where we had staff assaulted,” said Public Information Officer, Solomon Graves.
Right now, there are nearly 300 correctional officer openings.
“This is what it looks like, this is everything that's happened over those days. Some reporting from many of you,” Senator Joyce Elliott said, flipping through number pages of prison incident reports.
The ADC plans to alleviate concern after recent issues by repurposing 400 cells used in general population into restrictive housing for inmates found guilty of violations.
"We also plan to continue the renovation of recreation areas and add additional safety equipment throughout the units and entrance buildings,” said Graves.
He also said these changes will begin immediately. But Senator Elliott wants to know more details, and is concerned security issues may result from systemic problems.
“That is a question we need to answer, is the system working according to the way that it should? I don't see that it is,” she said.
Elliott isn't confident that things will be safer, even after Wednesday’s meeting.
“A part of corrections is not just more punishment, and I get the impression that apart of the response here is just more punishment. Obviously, that's not working,” said Elliott.
There have been 42 death investigations this year, 16 inmate on inmate assaults, and 28 inmates have assaulted staff. 144 cases from the past two years are still open.
Director Kelley also said facility locations limit ability to access help when there are security emergencies.