Sanders, Griffin chastise corrections board for not adding new prison beds

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday called on the Board of Corrections to approve the addition of 500 new beds in an emergency meeting.

Dexter Payne, director of the Division of Corrections, asked the board to approve temporary beds at five locations at its Nov. 6 meeting, according to information provided to The Center Square by the DOC. The board greenlighted an additional 130 units at two of the locations but not 492 units at three of the state prisons.

"We have the space, we have the resources, we have the personnel," Sanders said. "All that stand between us and a safer, stronger Arkansas is bureaucratic red tape."

As of Nov. 3, there were 1,886 inmates in county jails awaiting transfers to state prisons, according to the DOC.

"There's no one that is able to intelligently with a straight-face, argue that we don't need more prison capacity," Griffin said. "Let me be real clear. The actions of the Board of Corrections make Arkansans in this room and all around the state less safe."

A $470 million prison with 3,000 beds is in the planning process, according to Sanders. The governor also worked with the Legislature to pass a bill that would keep criminals convicted of certain offenses in prison longer.

DOC Board Chairman Benny Magness testified against the package, known as the Protect Act, Griffin said.

"Chairman Magness is a defender of the status quo and as such publicly testified against the Protect Act," Griffin said. "He failed in the legislature, where the Protect Act passed both chambers by a supermajority. Now he is using the Board to impede reform of the corrections system. For someone who claims to support law enforcement, the chairman’s actions indicate otherwise."

Sanders called the DOC board action unacceptable.

"I will not sit by while we enact the same broken policies that got us here in the first place because nobody ever called them out," the governor said. "Unfortunately, some in those positions of leadership are still playing games that put Arkansans in harm’s way."


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