Arkansas’ prison population decreased by 2.1 percent last year, although the state is seeking more funds to deal with a growing inmate population, reports the Arkansas News Bureau. State corrections director Larry Norris wants a budget hike of $63 million over two years. He seeks to fill jobs at two facilities that are being expanded because of a prison population growing at a rate of 400 prisoners a year.
Prison spokeswoman Dina Tyler said the population drop reported last week by the U.S. Justice Department was an “aberration” caused by the state prison board’s making nonviolent offenders eligible for early parole to ease overcrowding. The number of people on parole in Arkansas increased by 22.7 percent in 2005, the biggest increase of any state. Rep. Chris Thyer, a member of the Joint Budget Committee, said, “We’ve done some things at the state level like drug court that are an attempt at least to keep the people that we’re scared of in jail and people that we’re just mad at, to take care of them in another fashion. Clearly, we can’t keep building our way out of prison overcrowding.”