Prison Plot: Governor Ignores Real Criminal Justice Needs, Doubles-Down on Failed Mass Incarceration Approach  

Gov. Sanders proposed $470 million for the construction of a new prison, even as Arkansas struggles with one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation. Our state’s prisoners per 100K residents metric is higher than all but a handful of foreign countries.  

LITTLE ROCK – On Monday, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, State Senator Ben Gilmore (R-Crossett), and State Representative Jimmy Gazaway (R-Paragould) held a press conference to unveil a plan to uphold the failed status quo. Their plan will authorize the construction of a new prison to the tune of half a billion dollars with an additional $31 million required each year for continued operation. Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate caucuses have continued to put forward research-backed legislation to reduce overcrowding in our jails, correct terrible conditions in our prisons, and combat violent crime in our communities. 

In Governor Sanders’s limited, flawed view of criminal justice, there is no difference between a user of marijuana and a violent felon nor any willingness to pass bipartisan legislation to limit a violent person’s access to dangerous weapons. Her plan will not make Arkansas families safer. 

“If Arkansas really needs to lock up more people than many countries do, then we are failing,” said Democratic Party of Arkansas Chair Grant Tennille. “Building a new prison is just an admission of failure. Failure to care for children, failure to educate our people, failure to invest in Arkansas in all of the ways we know can prevent crime. Democrats in this legislative session and previous sessions have put forward bills to make Arkansas safer. Sanders’s plan will result in more nonviolent arrests, more mentally ill Arkansans in jail rather than in treatment, and less money for the services our people actually need.”