- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas House has endorsed a key part of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s criminal justice reform plan to help ease overcrowding at county jails.

Lawmakers voted 79-5 Tuesday to allow the state to partner with county jails on regional facilities to help clear the backlog of more than 2,600 state inmates at the facilities. It also allows inmates to apply for Medicaid benefits and provides avenues for them to enroll in drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.

Proponents say the change will help fix the overcrowding problem and protect the public.

Opponents say the change will harm Arkansans by allowing warrantless searches of parolees by law enforcement.

The bill now heads back to the Senate.

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