New bill in Arkansas would prohibit parole for felons convicted of using guns to commit violent crimes

Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Department of Corrections says nearly 73% of felony gun offenders will commit another violent crime soon after they get out of prison.

But a new bill in the state legislature (SB 300) would keep these types of offenders behind bars longer by not allowing them to parole.

The bill targets the offenders prosecutors call “the worst of the worst,” those convicted of Class B felonies using guns to commit violent crimes.

The United States Sentencing Commission says gun offenders are more likely to re-commit crimes and their re-arrests tend to happen soon after they get released from prison.

“Our goal is to get the most violent repeat offenders off the streets and make our community safer,” said former U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland.

Hiland says SB 300 would not give parole to felony possession offenders.

“The goal is to give prosecutors and law enforcement a tool so when we have violent repeat offenders we know are out riding the streets and they’re carrying weapons, to be able to really tag them,” Hiland said.

Hiland says this targets a limited group of people. Last Year, about 430 offenders in the state were convicted of these types of crimes.”But those are the people who are committing most of the dangerous crimes in our community,” Hiland said.

Offenders like Darrell Dennis, who just hours after being released from jail on parole, kidnapped and killed 18-year-old Forrest Abrams in Little Rock in 2013.

The case sparked reforms to the parole system, but Hiland says we need more.

“What we’re trying to do with this is make it a zero percent eligibility, so flat time,” Hiland said.

Ultimately, Hiland says the new bill aims to better protect our communities.

“They deserve to have these people off the street,” Hiland said.

For now, there’s no record of anyone opposed to this bill, but Hiland said that could change as it moves further along.

SB 300 is one of several initiatives that came out of the state’s “Back the Blue” legislative caucus.

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