Bills filed to change prison-reform law


LITTLE ROCK — A bill that would exclude sexual offenses and other serious felonies from eligibility for mandatory parole was filed Thursday.

Three other bills designed to amend Act 570 of 2011, the sentencing reform act, were also filed by Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, who has been been critical of the act since its passage.

Senate Bill 259 would exclude sexual offenses and other felonies including capital murder, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, arson, among others, from eligibility for transfer to the Department of Community Correction by the state Parole Board.

SB 257 would revise parole statutes to require a parolee who violates his parole by committing a felony to serve the entire remainder of his original sentence.

SB 258 would require the parole board to issue a warrant for the arrest of a parolee who has committed a violent or sexual felony while on parole.

SB 260 would require the state Department of Community Correction to prepare a report on the number of inmates under supervision for the last five years who would be considered repeat offenders under the definition of recidivism.

Matt DeCample, spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, said the governor is studying Sanders’ bills.

“We’ll review those like all other bills,” DeCample said.

The sentencing reforms were enacted in response to a 2010 study by the Pew Center’s Public Safety Performance, which found that the state’s prison population had doubled in the past 20 years to more than 16,000 and that housing ever more inmates could cost the state $1 billion over the next decade.

The reforms and guidelines could save the state about $875 million over the next decade, the PEW study said.

State parole and prison officials have said early indications are the reforms appear to be having some impact because the prison population has dropped, as has the backlog of state inmates being held in county jails.

Also filed Thursday:

• House Bill 1269, by Rep. John Catlett, D-Rover. Under the bill, an employer could not prohibit an employee from keeping a handgun in a locked vehicle in the employer’s parking lot if the employee has a license to carry a concealed weapon.

• Senate Joint Resolution 6, by Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, would ask voters to amend the state constitution to place oversight of most workers’ compensation cases in the Legislature. The state Supreme Court currently oversees pleadings, procedures and practices in such cases under Amendment 80, passed by voters in 2002.