A friend sends a link from Conway about a paroled convict who’d also spent time in the Department of Community Correction’s technical violators center. He has now been charged with committing a murder shortly after his most recent release from a hoped-for rehabilitative stint in the center.
Criminals do not always go straight. Offenders with non-violent records — theft was in the record of this accused killer — sometimes turn violent. Every case of a parolee is not evidence of a failure of the parole system. Some, however, are.
All of which is a good opportunity to mention that this Saturday is the Arkansas Times Festival of Ideas.
The event features people we’ve written about as visionaries in this week’s cover story of the print edition of the Arkansas Times.
Programs Saturday afternoon will be held at the Old State House, Historic Arkansas Museum, Clinton School of Public Service. Topics include music, film, gifted education and, getting around to my original point, crime and punishment.
At 2 p.m. Saturday at the Old State House, I’ll moderate a panel with Mayor Mark Stodola, state Sen. David Sanders and City Director Ken Richardson. The title: “Rehabilitate or Incarcerate: Crime and parole in Little Rock.”
Sanders earns a mention in this week’s attention for his laser-like focus on demonstrated shortcomings in the state’s parole system. Mayor Stodola, where the buck stops on city efforts to battle crime in the state’s largest city, has often cited the burden Little Rock faces as the home of an inordinate percentage of the state’s parolees. Richardson represents a city neighborhood where many of the parolees return. He also works in private life in a nonprofit dedicated to brightening the future of at-risk kids. Is there a way to a better parole system that is more than more lockup time for offenders? Beyond blame, are there solutions.
The mayor has been having some interesting dialogues with a couple of inner city activists, for example, on policing issues. I’m hopeful they and many others will turn out for some discussion that brings light as well as heat to one of the day’s top topics.
UPDATE: I heard from Dina Tyler, chief spokeswoman for the Department of Community Correction, who thought the panel should have a representative from her end of the business if paroles were going to be discussed. I said that I didn’t intend this as a throwdown on her department — though undoubtedly some of that will happen — but something with a broader focus. But I also invited her to come and participate and she plans to do so, along with Sheila Sharp, the new department director.