To the brim with inmates

January 26, 2011

by Taylor Stephens, FEATURE EDITOR

$60. That’s the amount of money per day that it takes to sustain an inmate imprisoned in Arkansas’ facilities per day.

$28. That’s the amount of money it would take to sustain an Arkansas inmate in a Louisiana prison.

Monday, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said to county sheriffs that state officials are searching for a way to ease the crowding of prisons.

KATV 7, an Arkansas-based news company, reported that at the beginning of the year, 14,200 prisoners were crowded into Arkansas prison units built to accommodate barely more than 13,000 and more than 1,600 state prisoners were housed in county jails awaiting space in the prison system.

Beebe’s solution is to allow certain Louisiana parishes to hold some Arkansas inmates for a fraction of the price.

Inmate No. 1234, come on down! You’re the next contestant on “Even Worse Conditions than Which You Were Already Living!”

One of the biggest problems with this proposal is that the lush $60 life of an Arkansas inmate will be slashed by more than half to shove them in already crowded prison environment, which leads to the next problem.

Though Louisiana is in one of the most troubling economic situations in the country, there is no talk of at least making a profit off of this proposition. Instead of receiving the bare $28 that will be required for prisoner sustainment, Louisiana should charge $40-50 for sustainment and pocket the profit.

This is just a contentious idea that I believe will never come to fruition, and even if it does, it can’t last for long.

Look at the statistics. 0.5 percent of Arkansas’ 2.8 million population are inmates compared to Louisiana’s 4.5 million population of which 0.8 percent are inmates.

Though Louisiana is more densely populated then Arkansas, handing over a few hundred inmates will tip the scales of Louisiana’s prisons, which are crowded as it is.

Another thing to think about is parole possibilities for inmates who become housed in Louisiana penitentiaries.

Will parole hearings be held in Arkansas or Louisiana?

Will the prisoners keep their Arkansas lawyers or will Louisiana pay for their defense?

Once paroled, will prisoners be transported back to Arkansas or will they be required to report to parole officers in Louisiana?

Not to mention that after having a domiciled address for more than year a person is a legal resident of Louisiana.

Does that mean that prisoners from Arkansas will then become Louisiana residents, or will there be an exception to that rule like for military personnel stationed in Louisiana?

There are numerous re-entry programs offered to rehabilitated inmates after they leave the confines of correctional facilities. Does this mean those same Louisiana re-entry opportunities will be offered to Arkansas inmates, taking the ones from inmates who are already living in Louisiana?

Questions like this need to be answered before many citizens of Louisiana, myself included, would be okay with a deal like this, or at least I would hope so.

The number of correctional facilities available in Louisiana nearly mirrors the number available in Arkansas. Flooding Louisiana prisons with Arkansas inmates will not fix the problem that arkansas is having. Not to mention that Arkansas is ranked No. 15 in violent crimes in the country versus Louisiana’s ranking of No. 6. It seems to me that Arkansas does not need to be unloading their criminals on Louisiana soil; rather they should be fixing their own prisons or creating new ones that would allow them to take care of their own.

It’s a moot point to pretend there is no problem with Arkansas prisons. To ignore what is wrong with them and just brush the problem onto Louisiana is ignorant.

Taylor Stephens is a senior journalism and English major from Bossier City who serves as features editor for The Tech Talk. E-mail comments to tds026@latech.edu.