Roby Brock at Talk Business reports on ideas to curb prison crowding, ranging from building a new prison (not likely any time soon) to shipping Arkansas prisoners to a private prison operator in Louisiana (cheaper than our current costs, but fraught with problems).

Recommendations from the Bureau of Legislative Research, as outlined by Talk Business, for a system currently housing 17,000 inmates, with another 2,500 backed up in county jails:


* Construct a 1,000 bed maximum security prison using a 30-year “wrap-around” bond issue estimated to cost $231 million (including principal and interest), excluding annual maintenance and operations expenses. The debt service would be covered by raising car tag decals by $2 annually.

* Review the successes and failures of Act 570, which altered sentencing guidelines.

* Mitigate longer sentences utilizing correctional interventions and re-entry programs.

* Consider using abandoned school buildings across the state rather than new construction to expand re-entry programs.

* Enlarge and expand the existing drug court program.

* Consider a private corrections management service provider that purports to have a lower per-inmate daily cost.

* Expand the Smarter Sentencing program in order to mitigate longer sentences.

* Consider funding the increase in the Arkansas Community Correction transitional beds program.

Note that none of these alternatives is cost-free. Some are more expensive than others. The current budget isn’t proving sufficient to pay counties their cost of holding prisoners who should be in state lockup.