I jump to no conclusions here, but I was reminded again today how much is yet to play out on the decision to move to more community solutions for non-violent offenders rather than expensive prison time. Early release and probation sometimes have unfortunate outcomes.

This was pointed out to me by a correspondent and occasional critic of community-based punishment efforts in Arkansas.

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He notes that a couple of recent homicide suspects were not only previous offenders, but “absconders” in the parlance of the parole system. That is, they’d stopped reporting to parole or probation officers and had longstanding outstanding warrants for their arrests for those violations. The cases:

* Marie Ashford, arrested in the fatal stabbing Saturday of Jeffery Hughes in North Little Rock. According to the Department of Community Correction, she was in “abscond” status for failure to report to a parole board. Her record has been sporadic since her release on parole in March 2005. She’s been subject to an active abscond warrant since Aug. 22, 2006.

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* Andrea Demond Graves was arested for shooting Cory Young to death Friday night at Wright Avenue and Battery. Graves was also a parolee and had been considered an absconder since May.

Each of the suspects had previous robbery convictions, so they were not cases of drug offenders turned violent.

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It might surprise you to know that, in Pulaski County alone currently, roughly 1,460 people are in abscond status — 910 on probation and 553 on parole. The numbers change as absconders are returned to supervision.

This prompted me to ask DCC how many are NOT absconders. Total caseload in the Little Rock area is about 9,200. These numbers present fair concerns about the readiness to handle a new influx of cases diverted from prison to alternative treatment and handling. Time will tell.

I also asked how someone could be on abscond status for five years and, what happens, when absconders are brought back into the system. The response from DCC’s Rhonda Sharp: