In 2011, Arkansas's prison population had more than doubled over the course of two decades, driving corrections costs up more than 800 percent. At the same time, recidivism and crime rates remained stubbornly high. Without action, the prison population would have grown by as much as 43 percent and cost Arkansas taxpayers an additional $1.1 billion over the next decade.
State leaders established a bipartisan, inter-branch working group to examine the drivers of Arkansas's prison population growth. With technical assistance from the Pew Center on the States and its partners, The Arkansas Working Group on Sentencing and Corrections conducted an extensive review of state data and issued recommendations to reduce recidivism and contain corrections costs.
In March of 2011, the Public Safety Improvement Act passed the Arkansas General Assembly with overwhelming bipartisan majorities and was signed into law by Governor Mike Beebe. The new law will cut Arkansas's prison population growth in half, avert $875 million in new prison costs and improve public safety by investing in evidence-based community supervision practices.