Prison board acts to ease overcrowding


LITTLE ROCK — Because of jail overcrowding, the state Board of Corrections invoked the Emergency Powers Act on Tuesday, making up to 681 prison inmates eligible for parole up to 90 days earlier than originally scheduled.

“They are people who have an approved parole plan who would have been released, but this just means that they qualify to be released 90 days early,” said state prison spokeswoman Shea Wilson. “They all might not get out 90 days early but they’re in that window of the time they are eligible to be released.”

Another 34 inmates were made eligible for parole up to a year earlier than scheduled, Wilson said, adding those inmates also have had their parole plans approved.

The state prison population Tuesday was 13,230 — 798 more than capacity. The number of state prisoners being housed in county jails totaled 2,675, a new state record, Wilson said.

The state’s prison population has risen significantly since July when the first in a series of new policies was approved to improve the disciplining and monitoring of parolees accused of new crimes.

An additional nine policies were approved by the board earlier this month, including requiring any parolee who has been issued three or more evading supervision warrants to be jailed until his or her next hearing. The policy stipulates a parolee has evaded supervision if he or she cannot be located for 30 day and requires an automatic revocation hearing for a parolee who cannot be located within 30 days.

The board has been working with the state Department of Community Correction for months to develop new policies to address several high-profile cases involving parolees, including the arrest in May of parolee Darrell Dennis, who was charged in the murder of a teenager while free despite multiple felony arrests.

Also Tuesday, the board raised the number of inmates who can participate in the Act 309 program — known as work release — by 10 to 336.