Arkansas: Improving Public Safety and Containing Corrections Costs

quick summary

Arkansas's prison population is projected to grow by as much as 43 percent over the next decade. Building and operating new prisons to accommodate this growth will cost approximately $11 billion between 2010 and 2020. With the state prison system already at full capacity, Arkansas policy makers are considering data-driven alternatives that will contain prison growth and corrections spending while protecting public safety. This June 2010 report detailed the steps state leaders took to advance public safety policy solutions.

Over the past 20 years, the prison population in Arkansas has more than doubled to 15,171 inmates.  In 2009 alone, the number of inmates grew 3.1 percent—the eighth largest increase in the country—and state spending on corrections reached an all-time high. The state spends nearly eight times more on corrections today than in 1988: $349 million per year, or eight percent of the general fund.

To address rising costs and protect public safety, the state established a bipartisan, inter-branch working group to guide an analysis of Arkansas's sentencing and corrections data and advance policy solutions.  Experts from the Public Safety Performance Project and its partners assisted the working group by:

  • analyzing the state's sentencing and corrections data;
  • providing a detailed statistical analysis of what is fueling the growth in the prison population;
  • developing a set of policy options that will reduce recidivism and future corrections costs;
  • modeling the effects of recommended policy changes;
  • facilitating the construction of a package of legislative and administrative options.

Media Contact

Christina Zurla

Manager, Communications