Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson Leads On Criminal Justice Reform and Treating The Mentally Ill

Governor Asa Hutchinson continues to deliver results for the people of Arkansas.

On top of his strong record on job creation and cutting taxes, Governor Hutchinson is leading historic efforts to reform Arkansas’s criminal justice system by better treating the mentally ill.

In 2017, Governor Hutchinson signed into law bipartisan legislation that enabled community health specialists and law enforcement officers to work together on providing the mentally ill the treatment they need and trained police officers to properly respond to scenarios involving the mentally ill.

Thanks to Governor Hutchinson’s bipartisan efforts, Arkansas is “now in a position to make meaningful reductions” in the number of people with mental illness cycling in and out of prison.

Gov. Hutchinson writes in a column for Fox News:

“Mention ‘reform’ to a group of politicians and it shouldn’t take long before you’re faced with partisan disagreements. However, in Arkansas, we didn’t have the time, nor the luxury, to play politics while our criminal justice system was facing seemingly insurmountable problems.

Last year, Arkansas’s 20 prisons were at capacity. Estimates showed that by 2023, our incarcerated population was expected to reach more than 21,000 people (an increase of nearly 20 percent), with an additional $653 million in spending to accommodate the prison growth. Our probation and parole officers were overwhelmed with large caseloads, preventing them from providing effective supervision critical for maintaining public safety.

In response, a bipartisan group of state and local leaders came together as part of Justice Reinvestment, a federally funded approach that identifies evidence-based policy solutions to create more efficient, effective state corrections systems. The result was the Criminal Justice Efficiency and Safety Act (Act 423), bipartisan legislation that addresses a variety of issues in our system, including establishing the vital crisis stabilization units that got Richard back on track.

The Justice Reinvestment approach allowed Arkansas to become the first state in the country to create a network of crisis stabilization units, enabling our community mental health specialists and law enforcement officers to work together to connect people experiencing mental health crises to the help they need. We also are now required to provide all law enforcement officers with special diversion training to ensure that they have the skills needed to handle these delicate scenarios effectively.

We are now in a position to make meaningful reductions to the number of people who have mental illnesses cycling in and out of our jails, and reinvest cost savings in efforts to keep people convicted of serious crimes off the streets.”