The push to crack down on parolees and probationers in the wake of a high-profile crime is not new for Arkansas. In 2013, Darrell Dennis, a black parolee with a long history of violations, killed a white teenager named Forrest Abrams. Media reports portrayed a parole system in disarray. The state Board of Corrections greatly tightened parole rules in response. By the end of 2013, Arkansas’s prison population grew by nearly 18 percent, making it the fastest growing prison population in the country. The pace has slowed, but since then Arkansas has remained at, or near, the top of states with the fastest growing prison populations in the country.
A major criminal justice reform bill, Act 423, came out of the legislative session this year. It introduces swift and certain sanctions on parolees and probationers who violate the terms of their supervision or commit nonviolent, nonsexual misdemeanors: They will be sent to an ACC facility for 45–90 days, where they will receive treatment, rather than back to prison. The new policy takes effect Oct. 1.