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Arkansas governor proposes $470M for 3,000 new prison beds

(AP) — Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday called for setting aside $470 million for new prison beds and imposing sentencing changes to keep violent offenders incarcerated longer as part of a public safety package lawmakers expect to take up starting this week.

The Republican governor, who has called the proposal one of her priorities for the legislative session that began in January, said the package will also include new mental health programs, $20 million to recruit new corrections officers and new protections for crime victims.

“We will protect the people of Arkansas,” Sanders said at a news conference at the state Capitol. “If we work together and make sure this legislation passes, we will do exactly what each of us who have run for office have promised to do, and that is to build safer, stronger communities across the state.”

Sanders said the one-time funding will pay for 3,000 new prison beds, and will also require $31 million in annual operating costs.

Sanders is pushing for the new prison space as the state’s correction system is above capacity, with more than 2,000 inmates being housed in local jails. The state’s prisons are at least 106% above capacity, according to the Department of Correction.

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