Given how expensive it can be to keep a person in prison, it’s understandable that a lot of counties in Arkansas are looking at parole and probation for non-violent offenders rather than spending more money to feed, shelter and clothe them in the hoosegow. The problem is: We aren’t doing a stellar job at keeping tabs on the parolees we’ve got. According to the Department of Community Correction, there are currently around 9,200 people on parole or probation in Pulaski County. Of those, 1,460 are in “abscond status,” meaning they haven’t made contact with their parole officer for 30 days or more — 910 on probation and 553 on parole. Some of the missing cons have literally been in abscond status for years, and many of them aren’t spending their extra time going to choir practice and learning how to type. Example: Marie Ashford, a 2005 parolee who was arrested in the fatal stabbing death of her boyfriend in North Little Rock recently, has been the subject of an active absconder warrant in Pulaski County since August 2006.

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