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Arkansas Could Deploy National Guard To Short-Staffed Prisons

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will decide whether to activate 138 National Guard Members after the head of the state’s prisons board asked for their aid to help staff short-handed positions, News From The States reports. Board of Corrections Chairman Benny Magness requested 40 Guardsmen for the Maximum Security and Tucker Units near Pine Bluff to free up prison guards to open 124 additional beds at the Tucker Re-Entry Center. Magness said the additional 98 Guard members requested would serve at other prisons across the state that have correctional officer vacancy rates higher than 40%. Under Magness’ proposal, the Guard members would not work directly with inmates. The decision to call on the Arkansas Guard rests with the governor.

The addition of temporary beds at the Max Unit and other prison facilities across the state has served as a catalyst for a dispute between the Board of Corrections with Sanders, Corrections Secretary Joe Profiri and Attorney General Tim Griffin. The corrections board in recent weeks signed off on adding 254 beds in existing spaces across three prisons, but has been reluctant to grant Profiri’s request to add 244 beds in a vacant building at the McPherson Unit, a women’s prison near Newport, and 124 beds at the Re-Entry Center in the Maximum Security Unit. The board’s chief worry has been about the strain additional inmates would put on correctional staff, and the prison system’s infrastructure. Sanders and Profiri planned to move forward with the bed additions, prompting a lawsuit from the board. A judge granted the board’s request for a temporary restraining order, blocking Profiri and the governor from adding additional beds. A hearing is set for Dec. 28. The board suspended Profiri for the duration of the litigation.


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