The Criminal Justice Efficiency and Safety Act is expected to have a tremendous impact not only in our prison overcrowding situation, but also in the way we treat mental health for Arkansans in a crises.
Arkansas currently has the number one incarceration growth rate in the country.
This legislation reforms the probation and parole system in the state and provides more access to mental health treatment in the criminal justice system.
Currently, an average of 1,600 people are incarcerated because their parole or probation was revoked for a non-violent misdemeanor.
This legislation would allow for those who violate conditions of their parole by committing a minor violations (such as missing a meeting) to serve a 45 day program with the Department of Community Correction. Those who violate conditions by committing a non-violent misdemeanor would serve a 90 day program with the Department of Community Correction.
States that have implemented a similar program have seen lower recidivism rates.
The second part to this legislation is the mental health component.
Law enforcement will receive training in mental health crises intervention. Experience has shown that officers with this type of training are able to de-escalate a situation on site 52% of the time.
For those situations that cannot be de-escalated on site and where no serious crime has occurred, this bill establishes three crises stabilization units in the state. The centers will provide another place to take individuals have a crises other than the county jail. The governor has committed $5 million to support these facilities, which will provide evaluation and treatment.
Act 539 abolishes life sentences without parole for anyone under the age of 18. This legislation would allow parole to be considered for a juvenile, tried as an adult, after serving 20 years for a non-homicidal offense, 25 years for a first degree murder conviction, and after serving 30 years for capital murder.
ADDITIONAL JUDICIARY LEGISLATION
Act 130 updates the law concerning harassing communication. This legislation clarifies that electronic communication including text and emails are covered as methods of communication.
Act 332 enhances the penalty for targeting a current or former law enforcement officer, first responder, or his or her family. If a person is convicted of a Class A misdemeanor with a possible sentence greater than 90 days in prison, an additional period of up to one year can be handed down.
If the person is convicted of a Class C or Class D felony, an additional sentence of 6 months to 2 years can be given. If convicted of a Class Y , Class A or Class B felony, and additional sentence of 2 -10 years can be handed down.
Act 367 creates aggravated assault crime for targeting law enforcement officer and makes it a class Y felony.
Act 429 ensures that the victim of a crime in notified when the perpetrator is released from a hospital or mental health facility if he or she was adjudicated to have a mental disease or defect.
Act 430 makes an exception to judicial immunity in cases where a judge is convicted of taking a bribe. This would allow only the individuals adversely affected by a judge’s decision as a result of a bribe to sue for damages.
Act 431 amends the penalty structure for abuse of office. Two years ago, the legislature enacted similar legislation for abuse of public office. This expands the time frame an individual can be charged to the day they were elected or appointed. Previously, this charge could only be made if the actions took place after an individual took office.
This also increases specified dollar amounts to a felony charge.
Act 439 is known as “Shannon’s Law”. This bill was named in recognition of a victim of the serial attacker known as blue light rapist. The offender would use a dash-mounted police-style blue light to pull women over in the late 1990’s. The legislature outlawed the sale of these lights after the attacks, but this legislation now makes it a crime to possess a blue light. The bill also escalates the crime of selling official law enforcement insignia from a misdemeanor to a felony.