The Arkansas Department of Correction today announced a plan to improve safety at the behest of Gov. Asa Hutchinson after a series of violent incidents have put the prison system under scrutiny.
According to a press release from spokesperson Solomon Graves, ADC will continue renovations of recreation areas and begin the upgrade of security equipment in entrance buildings, create “controlled access points inside the entrances to general population barracks,” and convert 400 general population housing cells into restrictive housing, where inmates can be isolated.
Multiple high profile violent events have taken place recently:
* July 22 at the Tucker Maximum Security facility, a guard fired three shots in an altercation with prisoners after a breakout.The July 22 incident was not reported to the media until July 31, after an inquiry by the Arkansas Times.
After the late September incident, according to J.R. Davis, spokesman for the governor, Hutchinson asked Director Wendy Kelley to formulate solutions.
“He just asked for some options,” Davis said, “and these were these actions.”
These solutions had largely been previously discussed. After the first two incidents were revealed, Kelley blamed both on inadequate fencing. The Board of Corrections recently discussed expanding isolation and restrictive housing as a solution to growing violence, too.
But, Davis said, these are only the “things that need to be done immediately.”
“There will be other proposals in the coming weeks and months,” Davis said.
In a statement, Hutchinson said that “these are items that should be started immediately, while we consider additional and longer-term options in the weeks and months ahead.”
Davis said that Hutchinson is still not considering the creation of a new prison as one of the options necessary.
The release does not address the four recent inmate deaths that have been sent to the State Police for investigation. We recently reported a long story that noted that inmate deaths had been not promptly reported to State Police, impairing at least one investigation into a death related to the drug K2.
You can read the full release below.
PINE BLUFF – At the direction of Governor Asa Hutchinson, the Arkansas Department of Correction is announcing an action plan to address safety concerns within the state’s prison system following incidents at several maximum security facilities.
· Action Item #1 – Continue the renovations of recreation areas and begin the upgrade of security equipment in entrance buildings, and other areas, throughout the Department.
· Action Item #2: Construct controlled access points inside the entrances to general population barracks at all maximum security facilities (East Arkansas Regional, Varner, Cummins, and the Maximum Security Unit) to increase their security.
· Action Item #3: Convert approximately 400 existing cells throughout the Department, currently used as general population housing, into Restrictive Housing for inmates found guilty of disciplinary violations. This is will increase the capacity of the Department to house inmates found guilty of disciplinary violations which pose a direct threat to the safety of persons or a clear threat to the safe and secure operations of the facility.
The Department will now begin the process of reallocating existing resources for the implementation of these action items.
Governor Hutchinson released the following statement in support of ADC’s action plan, saying, “I appreciate Director Kelley’s swift action per my request for options to better safeguard our prison facilities and reduce the violence within. Based upon my discussions with her, these are items that should be started immediately, while we consider additional and longer-term options in the weeks and months ahead.”
Benny Magness, Chairman of the Board of Corrections, released the following statement in support of this action plan, “these items will, without a doubt, increase the security of the Department of Correction. The Board of Corrections looks forward to their implementation and to the discussion of additional items with the Department and the Governor.”
ADC Director Wendy Kelley released the following statement regarding this action plan, “the mission of the Department of Correction is to provide a safe and humane environment for staff and inmates. This plan will increase the safety in our maximum security facilities. We look forward to the opportunity to continue our work with the Board of Corrections, Governor’s Office, and General Assembly on strengthening the Department’s ability to carry out its mission.”