Attorney General Tim Griffin is neither a lawmaker nor a governor, but he agrees with the governor. Sarah Sanders and legislative leader, and was instrumental in advancing criminal justice reforms that included extending prison sentences, providing inmates with job and educational skills, and expanding prison bed capacity.
Griffin said in interviews with Capitol View and Talk Business & Politics on Sunday (Jan. 22) that he believes 5,000 prison beds are needed to meet demand.
“We need at least three [3,000] The way I see it,” Griffin said. “The truth is, we’ve been building prisons, we’ve been building them for years as a practice of real problems, because we’ve been quietly pushing our violent felons into — They don’t have room in the state prison — we’ve been pushing them into county jails. This basically renders the county jail useless. To document misdemeanors, DUIs, etc. So we’ve basically made misdemeanor justice irrelevant. “
“I think ultimately we’re going to need five [5,000 beds]. And then you’re like, ‘Oh, so much. The reason there are so many is because this has been ignored for 20 years. Prosecutors and their needs have been ignored. The defensive side required by the Constitution was ignored. Our criminal justice system is underfunded. Do we have to spend money? Yes. People say we can’t afford it. Let me tell you one thing, we can’t not do this. If you want to operate a job outside of our state,” he added.
The cost of building 1,000 prison beds is estimated to be as high as $100 million. Logically, 5,000 prison beds cost $500 million to build, plus additional money for operations and staffing.
“Whatever the price tag is, spend your money wisely. Whatever the price, yes, I’ll take it. Because it’s a deal, and just like national defense, keeping people safe is a fundamental responsibility of government.”
Griffin is working with Senator Sanders on a massive sentencing truth bill. Ben Gilmore, R-Crossett and Rep. R-Paragould’s Jimmy Gazaway is expected to be hundreds of pages long. It may not redefine actual prison sentences. Griffin said it may simply have changed the calculation of the early parole option.
“It’s not so much that the sentence is going to be longer, it’s that they’re going to serve it. So we want real sentences. Right now, we have ‘sentencing deception,’ because people in Arkansas who are convicted, especially felonies, are serving only A fraction of the penalty they get,” Griffin said.
He expects the omnibus state bill to mirror federal sentences in some parts, with non-parole non-parole for certain violent crimes and an 85% service rate for some sentences, with a promise of 15% for meritorious or good conduct.
“If I go with it, it’s going to be part of the bill,” Griffin said. “So for violent crimes, you either get zero parole, or serve 85 percent like the federal. If it’s non-violent, it’s 50 percent and 25% of the category. So you get full sentences, but you get your way out by getting a degree, learning how to weld, learning how to drive a truck, learning how to be an electrician. So it puts the onus on the prisoner.”
You can watch Griffin’s full interview in the video below.