- Associated Press - Monday, December 7, 2015

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - New Arkansas Parole Board regulations have gone into effect to reduce the number of parolees sent back to prison.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1RzKrdQ ) reports that the regulations took effect Thursday. The regulations say that a hearing for a parolee will not be scheduled until there has been a conviction or some other finding that a parole violation has occurred, except in cases involving allegations of violence.

Previously, any parolee accused of violating the terms of his parole would be automatically scheduled for a hearing to determine whether parole would be revoked. Officials say the previous regulations have led to the number of parolees back in prison to skyrocket.

Solomon Graves, director of the state Parole Board, and Kris Eglin, a parole and probation officer for the board’s Northwest Arkansas region of Benton, Madison and Washington counties say most parolees scheduled for a hearing opted to sign a waiver and go back to prison, rather than go through the hearing.

The previous regulations were in response to the killing of a Fayetteville man. Eighteen-year-old Forrest Abrams was kidnapped and killed in May 2013 by a parolee Darrell Dennis, who was released from the Pulaski County jail 32 hours earlier. Dennis had been charged with at least 10 new felonies after his 2008 parole from prison before he kidnapped Abram, but he was not scheduled to have his parole revoked until after his arrest in the killing. He is now serving a life sentence in Abrams’s death.

Graves and Eglin say the response to that case resulted in the increased likelihood of a parole being revoked than officials had intended.

Parole Board records show the number of people out on parole in Area 1, the Benton-Madison-Washington county area, dropped from 2,363 on June 30, 2013, to 2,154 a year later. That is an 8.8 percent drop in one year.

“That was when the wheels fell off,” said Sheriff Tim Helder of Washington County. “That’s when you had people sleeping on the floor of the jail.”

Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association President John Montgomery has said that there were a lot of warrants that law enforcement could not serve because there was no place to put the people they arrested.

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Information from: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.nwaonline.com

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