NEWPORT, Ark. (KTHV) - "We've all wanted to avoid this day," Board of Corrections Chairman Benny Magness began. But they all knew it was coming. Magness continued, "But we can't, as I convinced the governor yesterday, we can't wait much longer."
In Thursday's meeting the Arkansas Board of Corrections voted unanimously to move forward with a plan to build a new 1,000 bed state prison. Magness explained, "We grew 215 inmates, on an average per month in 2013." The problem is, their projection is only at a set growth of 30 inmates per month. "Even with that number the projection shows we're going to need a thousand bed prison," Magness said.
Ray Hobbs, the Department of Correction Director said times have changed and so have today's criminals. Hobbs explained, "They're younger, more violent and they're getting longer sentences. You know, for rape, murder, those violent crimes." All reasons he attributes to the overcrowding.
A prison that size could cost upward of $75 to 85 million, depending on how and where the prison is built. But the board is not asking for that amount now. They are only asking for the money to do the planning, which would be between $5 and 6 million.
The board said it may be a risky time to ask for the money because of the legislatures discussion of the private option. Magness said, "We're told if private option doesn't go through that our funding is in jeopardy of new money and possibly some of our existing money." It is a risk board members are willing to take-if it results in much needed relief in Arkansas' prisons.