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Arkansas's Justice Reinvestment Approach: Enhancing Local Mental Health Services for People in the Criminal Justice System

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2017
4 pages
This report reviews Arkansas's legislation that is intended to address the challenge of a 21-percent growth in the State's prison population between 2012 and 2015, the highest increase in the Nation during that period.
Arkansas's prisons are currently at capacity, and county resources are strained due to a backlog of people who are held in jail while awaiting transfer to prison after sentencing. In addressing these issues, in March 2017, Arkansas legislators passed Act 423, which mandates policies designed to make better use of State and local resources in three ways. First, it limits incarceration periods for people sanctioned for low-level violation of the terms of their supervision. Second, it requires training for law enforcement officers in how to respond to people who are experiencing a mental health crisis. Third, it creates local crisis stabilization units that enable law enforcement officers to divert people with mental illnesses who commit low-level offenses away from county jails to receive mental health treatment in the community. Implementation of these policies is expected to avert hundreds of millions that would be required to construct and staff new prisons. These anticipated savings will be reinvested in areas important for improving outcomes for people under supervision. Act 423 is expected to reduce the projected growth in the prison population by nearly 10 percent by fiscal year 2023, averting corrections costs by just over $288 million. A summary of Act 423 is provided. 1 figure