AG Griffin: 5,000 new prison beds are needed

Attorney General Tim Griffin is not a legislator or governor, but he is on the same page as Gov. Sarah Sanders and legislative leaders and has been instrumental in pushing criminal justice reforms that include serving longer sentences, providing job and educational skills to inmates, and expanding prison bed capacity. .

Griffin said Sunday (Jan. 22) in an interview with Capitol View and Talk Business & Politics that he believes 5,000 prison beds are needed to meet the demand.

“We need at least three [3,000] in my opinion,” Griffin said. “It’s true that we’ve been building prisons, we’ve been building them for years as a matter of practice in a practical matter because we’ve been quietly shoving our violent criminals into — there’s no place for them in state prison — we’ve been shoving them into county jails. Which essentially rendered the county jails useless. For the purpose of putting misdemeanors, DUIs, etc. So we basically made misdemeanor justice irrelevant.”

“I think we’ll ultimately need about five [5,000 beds]. And you say, ‘Oh, that’s so much.’ There are so many because it was ignored for 20 years. Plaintiffs and their needs were ignored. The defense side, which is mandatory by the constitution, was neglected. Our criminal justice system is under-resourced. Do we have to spend money? That. People say we can’t afford it. I’ll tell you something, we can’t afford not to. If you want to conduct business outside our country,” he added.

It is estimated that the construction of 1000 prison beds will cost as much as 100 million dollars. Logically, 5,000 prison beds would cost $500 million to build plus additional funding for operations and staffing.

“Whatever the price, use the money wisely. Whatever the price, yes, I’m fine. Because the deal here is, just like national defense, it is the government’s fundamental responsibility to keep people safe.”

The massive truth-telling bill that Griffin is working on with Sanders, Sen. Ben Gilmore, R-Crossett, and Rep. Jimmy Gazaway, R-Paragould, is expected to run several hundred pages. It cannot redefine actual prison terms. Griffin said that could just change the calculations for early parole options.

“It’s not so much that the sentences will be longer, but that they will actually serve what they got. So we want the truth in the sentence. Right now we have ‘sentencing fraud’ because people in Arkansas who are convicted of a crime, and we’re talking about felonies in particular, are only serving a small fraction of what they’re given,” Griffin said.

He expects the comprehensive state law to mirror federal sentences with no parole in some parts for some violent crimes and up to 85% served for some sentences with the promise that 15% will be earned for merit or good behavior.

“That will be part of this bill, if I will,” Griffin said. “So for violent crimes, you’re either going to have zero probation or you’re going to serve 85% as federal. If it is non-violent, then there is a 50% category and a 25% category. So you’ll get a full sentence, but you can make money by getting a degree, learning to weld, learning to drive a truck, learning how to be an electrician. So that puts the onus on the inmate.”

You can watch Griffin’s entire interview in the video below.

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