The ACLU has released its report on a smarter justice system in Arkansas, a two-year project with the Urban Institute. Key aims are to reduce the prison population and reduce racial disparities in sentencing.

The report is extensive, but important in a state with a rising incarceration rate against a drop nationwide and a wildly disproportionate imprisonment rate for black people (four times that of white people).

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Recommendations:

  • Collect more data on the criminal justice system.
  • Improve probation and parole practice to emphasize rehabilitation rather than renewed incarceration for technical violations.
  • Expanded mental health services.
  • Sentence reform, meaning shorter sentences.

The General Assembly should create a “second look” process that will allow anyone who has served 10 or more years to apply for resentencing before a court, and should also limit the use and severity of sentencing enhancements for people with previous felony convictions.

The report acknowledges that legislative and voter support will be necessary, not always easy when it comes to a) money or b) reduction in sentences.

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