April 2021


our state, and to have robust discussions on the impact proposed legislation will have on our citizens. Together, we are able to ask questions about broader implications. Often, those questions lead to amendments that make a good bill a better one. Every session, there are a number of bills introduced which deal with criminal laws and which have a direct impact on sentencing. The committee never takes these proposals lightly. Enhancing sentences on crimes that hurt Arkansans are often popular, but experience has taught that long-lasting repercussions do not always serve society well. With over 16,000 people in prison or jail, Arkansas has the fourth highest state imprisonment rate in the country. Only Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma have a greater percentage of their population incarcerated. Texas, a state known for being tough on crime, comes in sixth on that list. The Judiciary Committee receives information regularly as to our prison population, the parole population, the number of repeat offenders, and the cost to the state. It is important for the committee

Evidence has shown when programs like this are in place, chi ldren are less likely to commit crimes as an adult. In this session, the House Judiciary advanced an expansion of the specialty cour t system, now Act 58, which is designed to give certain offenders an opportunity to avoid prison time by addressing addiction, of fer ing l i fe sk i l ls and opportunities for employment. Our commi t tee also spends a great deal of time addressing laws regarding sex offenders. There are over 11,800 registered sex offenders in Arkansas. They live in every county of the state. Bills are introduced each session regarding where sex offenders can and cannot be allowed. It is the duty of our committee to scrutinize these bills to protect our citizens, but at the same time to weigh the unintended consequences of forcing an individual into homelessness or unemployment. None of these questions have easy answers, but I am proud to say that the members of House Judiciary are careful and thoughtful in their deliberations. There are many pressing

Arkansas State Representative Carol Dalby is the first woman to chair the Arkansas House Judiciary Committee. submitted photo

issues that lie ahead in the 93rd General Assembly. I am confident that our committee will meet the challenges with the same determination, grit and commitment to do our very best for the citizens of Arkansas, no matter their circumstances. I am honored that House Speaker Matthew Shepherd appointed me to chair this committee for a second term. I am the first woman to chair the House Judiciary Committee, and I am confident I will not be the last. I want to encourage Arkansans, if they have not already, to watch how our committee process works. All committee meetings are live-streamed and archived at www.arkansashouse.org. Thank you for the opportunity to be your representative in the 93rd General Assembly for the State of Arkansas.

to ask, with every bill before us, could this have unintended consequences, could it disproportionally impact minorities, would it really make our streets safer, or does it make us feel better? Sometimes those questions are not welcomed ones or politically popular, but if we do not ask them now, Arkansans answer for it later. Evaluating legislation impacting sentencing is one way we address this issue. The other is by attacking the prison pipeline. In 2019, the House Judiciary advanced what would later become Act 189. This legislation transformed the juvenile justice system by utilizing the validated risk assessment tool, creating plans for diversion options to maximize benefits for juvenile offenders, and then developing a plan for reinvestment of funds into community- based services. Simply put, we are on a path to getting children the help they really need instead of sending them to juvenile detention.


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