- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Senate has passed legislation that aims to reduce the state’s prison population by giving some nonviolent offenders more breaks before being sent to prison.

The Senate voted to send the bill to the House on Monday for further consideration, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/2m8xakf ) reported.

The legislation would allow such offenders to be sanctioned to county jails or community correction facilities for up to six times for minor offenses before being sent to prison on full revocation. Some offenders could be sent to a community correction facility to receive treatment for no less than 45 days.

The bill would also create three intervention centers for mentally ill nonviolent offenders. Funding for the centers would come from Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s proposed budget.

Prosecutors are officially neutral about the legislation, but some say the policy takes away their authority to revoke probation.

Republican Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, who is sponsoring the bill, said prisons have had to release more dangerous inmates to take in revocations.

“We are talking about (people convicted of) misdemeanors” such as writing a hot check, Hutchinson said. “We have no teeth with probation and parole. This gives us teeth without building 10 more prisons.”

According to a task force’s report, limiting revocations could free as many as 1,650 beds in the state’s prison system.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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