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AR Governor, Board Dispute Hiring Of Temporary Prison Director

The Arkansas Board of Corrections voted to hire a former Republican state senator as the prison system’s interim head. The vote to make former Sen. Eddie Joe Williams the interim secretary of the Department of Corrections came three weeks after the board fired then-Secretary Joe Profiri, reports the Arkansas Advocate. The board also approved additional inmate space at one facility, pending the hiring of more guards. Williams’ hiring Wednesday afternoon was immediately challenged by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ office. Williams, who served in the Arkansas Senate from 2011-2017, described himself as neutral in the ongoing dispute between the board and Sanders and said he intended to only lead the department temporarily. "I’m here to try to bridge the gap and steady the ship through these uncharted waters,” Williams said. 

Sanders’ communications director, Alexa Henning, said Williams’ hiring was illegal. She said, “The Board of Corrections knows that it is only the Governor who selects and nominates the Secretary.” The ongoing dispute between the board and the governor, Profiri and Attorney General Tim Griffin has created an unprecedented situation with no corrections secretary in place. The board on Wednesday approved the last leg of a plan to temporarily expand the state’s inmate capacity. The Department of Corrections has been trying since the fall to add temporary beds to reduce the number of state inmates that have backed up into county jails due to overcrowding in the prison system. As of Wednesday, 1,678 inmates in state custody were being housed in county jails.. Arkansas’ prisons have been over-capacity for years, relying on early prisoner releases and county jails to manage the overflow. Some 18,522 people had been committed to the state, but the system’s rated capacity is only 15,022.


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