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Gov. Sanders new $470 million plan would build new prison, crack down on inmate sentences

Gov. Sanders introduced the 'Safer Stronger Arkansas Legislative Package' which is aimed at adding more prison beds and correction officers to prisons by 2025.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Update: The Protect Arkansas Act passed Senate Committee on Wednesday.

(Eds. note: The video above is from March 27 when Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the proposal.)

Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced a new proposal on Monday that would add more prison beds with a new facility and funding to hire correction officers and staff.

Gov. Sanders said that the proposal, which is being dubbed as the "Safer Stronger Arkansas Legislative Package," would be implemented by a target date of Jan. 1, 2025, and would cost around $470 million. 

"[The Safer Stronger Arkansas Legislative Package] will protect communities, it will protect victims, and it will protect our state's future," she claimed at a press conference. 

The proposal is in response to what the governor has called a "revolving door" of crime as the state ranks "3rd in the U.S. for murders, 2nd in the country for rape, [and] 1st for child abuse," according to Gov. Sanders. 

The governor pointed to what she called "misguided compassion," as the source for many of the repeat offenders who are allowed back into society. Instead, the governor is adamant about each person serving the full extent of their time in prison.

"If you are a murderer, if you are a rapist, if you are an abuser, [Arkansas] will put you in prison for a very long time," Gov. Sanders said. "If you commit an offense like murder, rape, human trafficking, or child sex abuse-- you will serve 100% of your sentence." 

Gov. Sanders also mentioned that inmates who have committed a "lesser violent crime," would be eligible for supervised release after serving at least 80% of their sentence. 

The governor pointed to an ongoing bed shortage in Arkansas as one of the many reasons why inmates are allowed to be released early. The new facility would address that concern by building 3,000 new prison beds.

The plan also outlines new developments for mental health programs and fine repayments in order to help inmates reintegrate back into Arkansas communities. 

Additionally, the proposed package is dedicating at least $20 million towards recruitment in order to address a shortage of correction officers. 

"We can't just wait for the next generation of correction officers to show up. We have to recruit and train talent and make sure we are retaining those who are already serving," the governor said. 

Fellow Arkansas politicians, like Attorney General Tim Griffin, declared their support for the new legislation as they recounted their experience with crime in the state. 

“The first responsibility of government is to keep its citizens safe, and on this point, the status quo has failed. Arkansas has a deceptive and dangerous parole problem where violent felons go free after serving only a fraction of their time," AG Griffin said. "These violent felons return to our neighborhoods, where they are likely to commit another violent crime against Arkansans. This reality is unacceptable."

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