Division of Correction

Providing fair, firm, consistent and superior correctional services for Arkansas

Prison History and Events

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2021

On January 29, three Division of Correction staff members were honored at a luncheon in Benton by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge for receiving 2020 County Officer of the Year awards. Two Division of Community Correction employees were also honored. CONGRATULATIONS to the following:
• Cpt. Andre Harris, Northeast Arkansas Community Correction Center, Mississippi County Officer of the Year
• Sgt. Tamisha Ivory, Ouachita River Correctional Unit, Hot Spring County Officer of the Year
• Sgt. Kyle Moody, North Central Unit, Izard County Officer of the Year
• Capt. Lillie Phillips, Texarkana Regional Correctional Center, Miller County Officer of the Year
• Sgt. Stephanie Soimis, East Central Community Correction Center, Crittenden County Officer of the Year

State Senator Keith Ingram and Representatives Reginald Murdock and David Tollett sponsored a special Senate Concurrent Memorial Resolution to remember and honor Sgt. Travis Wallace.

In January 2021, Grimes Unit tenured officer Sgt. Roger Tim passed away. During Correctional Officers and Employee Week, Sgt. Tims’ shift nominated him for the Humanitarian Award. His widow was later presented with a certificate and Halo Award.

Division of Correction Director Dexter Payne, along with Division of Community Correction Director Jerry Bradshaw and Corrections Secretary Solomon Graves, had an opportunity in January to show Arkansas legislators a drone that was secured last summer at the Varner Unit. Since drones can be used to drop contraband items into correctional facilities, the three leaders strongly support Senate Bill 173. This legislation would protect certain food-processing and manufacturing plants as well as prisons from interference from drones.

The state of Arkansas experienced record snowfall during the week of February 15. Not surprisingly, there were many instances of ADC staff members pulling together to help each other with issues triggered by the adverse weather conditions, such as traveling to work

The 10th Annual ADC Horse Auction, held at the Saline County Fairgrounds. A total of 26 horses were sold, including a gelding from the Varner Unit that brought in a record-setting $6,100.

On June 1 the Paws in Prison program was launched at the McPherson Unit.

Inmates from the Arkansas Department of Corrections Varner Unit spent all day on June 9 shoveling through four loads of sand to make sandbags for Dumas residents who were affected by area flooding.

Members of the Emergency Response Team from the Pine Bluff Complex took part in the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Arkansas in Pine Bluff on June 16.

In Sept., the Tucker K-9 unit assisted federal authorities in successfully apprehending a wanted fugitive.

Corrections Secretary Solomon Graves joined the leaders of Arkansas Baptist College, Shorter College, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and Philander Smith College on August 6 to support Congressman French Hill as he announced plans to reintroduce the Shift Back to Society Act. The Act would establish a 5-year pilot program to provide grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) for educational programming to eligible offenders to facilitate reentry into the community.

Jhayla McFarley had the honor of being pinned as a Correctional Officer II by her mother, Sgt. Laquista Swopes, at the Varner Unit’s Basic Correctional Officer Training graduation held on September 3.

“Zoey,” a graduate of the Paws in Prison program, was featured on a KARK Channel 4 news segment highlighting how she helps students each day as an emotional support dog at a Hot Springs elementary. school.

DeAngelo Earl, Superintendent of the Wrightsville Complex, was invited to be a guest speaker representing the Division of Correction at the annual Back to School Non-Violence Youth Summit hosted by the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission.

Pathway to Freedom, Inc. celebrates their 10th anniversary with a dinner at the Governor’s Mansion on September 30.

On October 21, the Cummins Fire Department quickly responded to a call for an 18-wheeler that caught fire on Highway 65.

A fundraiser in support of the ADC Red Ribbon Scholarship was held on October 29 called the Pie Fly Fundraiser. Several staff members volunteered for the chance to be pied in the face for a good cause. In the end, more than $2,700.00 in scholarship funds was raised.

The Pine Bluff Regional Park Festival of Lights Association donated a sponsored light display for ADC as part of their annual Enchanted Land of Lights and Legends at Jefferson Regional Park.

December marked the 10th anniversary of the Arkansas Paws in Prison program. Since its beginnings in 2011, more than 1,800 dogs have been rescued, trained, and adopted by loving forever families.

2020

Governor Asa Hutchinson visited Pine Bluff on July 27 to personally express his gratitude to Department of Corrections Secretary Wendy Kelley, who retired on July 31 after serving the Department for 14 years.

Governor Asa Hutchinson appointed Solomon Graves as Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Corrections on July 23. The Board of Corrections approved Governor Hutchinson’s recommendation at a called meeting on July 28 with plans for Graves to officially assume the position on August 1. Graves was sworn in on August 3rd.

To limit possible exposure to COVID-19, beginning in early March 2020, ADC suspended all inmate visitation.

To keep family ties as strong as possible during COVID-19, the price of phone calls and video visitation was reduced.

ACI played an integral role in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While other manufacturing industries closed down during the pandemic, ACI continued to manufacture cleaning supplies and toilet paper in addition to other products to meet the needs of our customers. In April alone, inmates sewed 80,000 protective masks for inmates and staff to help fight the spread of COVID-19. Extra masks were given to the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management for distribution to other state agencies.

When face shields that were ordered didn’t arrive in a timely manner, ADC’s Construction and Maintenance Division took matters into their own hands. Staff and inmates designed a prototype, cut out the materials and put together 250 face shields for use in Arkansas Division of Correction Facilities and Arkansas Community Correction Centers.

Canine Officers from the Tucker Unit assisted the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department to track a suspect wanted for felony fleeing.

Officers from the Varner and Cummins Unit were called to help the Arkansas State Police in helping track 2 suspects. the officers responded in the dark with officers and tracking dogs.

Sgt. Travis Wallace, who also served as a police officer for the city of Helena-West Helena, was killed November 12 as he attempted to arrest a subject wanted for a shooting that occurred the previous week

The Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary officially opened at the Varner Unit on August 29th with 25 students. The is a four-year program, it is voluntary, tuition is free and those who successfully complete the program will earn a Bachelor’s degree.

A former Paws in Prison (PIP) standout student (dog) was officially introduced as the newest employee at Central Arkansas Water (CAW) in a news conference held at Little Rocks River Market Pavilions. As the nations very first water leak detection dog, the appropriately named, “Vessel”, has come along way from her humble beginnings – where she was dumped in the middle of a Louisiana sugar cane field.

The Arkansas Paws in Prison Program was awarded a $25,000 grant on June 28 by the Arkansas Animal Rescue Foundation.

The 9th Annual Horse Auction was held at the Saline County Fairgrounds in Benton. Due to COVID-19, the
crowds were smaller than past years, but all 27 horses were sold for an average price of $1,576.00.

Severe storms erupted over Arkansas on January 10-11 and left their mark on three ADC facilities including the Mississippi County Work Release Center, East Arkansas Regional Unit, and Pine Bluff Complex.

Damage was done to the Maximum Security Unit at Tucker on the evening of April 12.

Employees took part in the annual Polar Plunge for Special Olympics Arkansas on January 25 and raised $1,575 benefiting Special Olympics.

Warden Joe Page took part in a panel discussion on traumatic brain injury in Washington, DC on March 3.

2019

On Wednesday, April 3, 2019, Governor Asa Hutchinson signed Act 582 of 2019 into law with an Emergency Clause making it effective immediately. Under this Act, if Battery in the First Degree is committed against an employee of a correctional facility (defined as a person who is employed
by or working under a professional services contract with the Department of Correction or Community Correction), it is a Class Y Felony.

A memorial dedication ceremony recognizing the “Wrightsville 21” was held on the grounds of the Wrightsville Unit on April 25, 2019.

The Grimes Unit Greyhounds softball team raised more than $1,000, which was used to purchase school supplies and equipment for Jackson County students.

Several employees from the Grimes Unit took part in a “Donuts for Dads” breakfast event held for male students of the Newport School District in grades 7-12.

The Ouachita River Correctional Unit (ORCU) Softball Team for finishing in the number one spot in the Hot Springs County Relay for Life co-ed Softball Tournament.

Division of Correction Reentry Coordinator Nicole Smart stepped onto the national stage in early December when she presented on Arkansas’s reentry efforts at a conference for the National Association for Justice-Involved Females.

The Arkansas Division of Correction competed in the 11th Annual Pop Tab Pandemonium contest benefiting Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Arkansas (RMHCA) to help sponsor the costs of giving families who have children in the hospital a safe, comfortable and free place to stay.

Members of the Emergency Response Teams from th Pine Bluff Complex, Delta Regional Unit, Cummins Unit and Wrightsville Complex participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run to benefit the Special Olympics Arkansas in Pine Bluff.

Office space inside of the J. Aaron Hawkins, Sr. Center, was transformed into the Lactation Room. The space was the only known lactation room of its kind in Arkansas that allows incarcerated women to pump breast milk and have it shipped out to their infants while they remain in prison.

2018

As a thank you for affording Kimeron Hubbard the opportunity to be of assistance during and following the disasters of Hurricane‘s Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the Grimes Unit received a Certificate of Appreciation from the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) for Mr. Hubbard.

Supervising Psychologist with the Sex Offender Community Notification Assessment Program (SOCNA), Mike Wood, Ph.D., was honored as a Fellow with the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.

Governor Asa Hutchinson served as the Keynote Speaker for Ouachita River Correctional Unit Chapel Dedication.

The 7th annual ADC Horse Auction at the Saline County Fairgrounds earned $44,800.

THV11 profiled the Veteran‘s Outreach Program at the Barbara Ester Unit, a part of ADC’s Incarcerated Veteran‘s Program

2017

Think Legacy, a department-wide re-entry program, was formally launched at the beginning of the year. Inmates who are within 12 to 18 months of their projected release may be housed in a Think Legacy barracks. They are required to take 20 or more hours per week of instruction tailored to aid them in successfully transitioning back into free society. The program utilizes a combination of ADC staff and volunteers to provide instruction and make resources available to inmate participants.

The Agriculture Division hosted its annual Horse Auction on March 11. Thirty horses, retired from the ADC’s working herd, were offered for sale to the public.

Mark Cashion became the Assistant Director over Administrative Services in May.

2016

On March 12, 38 horses, colts and mules were sold at the annual ADC Horse Auction held in Benton at the Saline County Fairgrounds. Total revenue from the sale was $29,015.

The following received reaccreditation by the American Correctional Association (ACA) through perfect audit scores of 100% on both mandatory and non-mandatory standards:
• Industry Division
• Northwest Arkansas Work Release Center (Springdale)
• Pine Bluff Complex
• Texarkana Regional Correctional Center (TRCC)

The Arkansas Department of Correction dedicated its first reentry facility, the Barbara Ester Unit, in August. The goal of the facility focuses on training and resources for prisoners before they are released back into the community. The unit is named after Corporal Barbara Ester, who was killed in the line of duty in 2012 at the East Arkansas Regional Unit.

The ADC Agricultural Division provided more than $1.9 million in savings to the taxpayer through inmate consumption of farm-produced goods during the fiscal year.

On February 16, 1916, the state purchased 1,384.64 acres of land that would become what is known today as the Tucker Unit. A commemoration event, held on Friday, Dec. 16 at the unit’s Island of Hope Chapel, marked the 100th anniversary since the facility opened its doors to inmates.

Agency Assistant Director, Mike Carraway, died on Dec. 17 at the age of 55. Director Wendy Kelley stated, “He was a mentor, co-worker and member of the department; he had a wealth of knowledge, which he would happily share with others. He was a friend who provided an encouraging word.”

2015

Effective January 13, Wendy Kelley assumed the role of ADC Director. Kelley had served as Chief Deputy Director since Jan. 2014.  The first female in the role of Chief Deputy Director, Kelley became the first female Director.

Dale Reed became the Chief Deputy Director. Reed is responsible for Emergency Preparedness and the Cummins, Varner, VSM, Ouachita River, Wrightsville, Pine Bluff, RLW, and Ester Units.

Dexter Payne was named Deputy Director. Payne was responsible for the Max, Tucker, EARU, NWAWRC, Mississippi County, Texarkana, Grimes, McPherson, North Central, Delta, and the ACT 309 Program.

2014

Effective Jan. 1, 2014, Wendy Kelley became the Chief Deputy Director.  The first female in the role of Deputy Director, Kelley was responsible for Information Systems, Research/Planning/Policy, Classification/Records, Drug Testing Coordinator, PREA/STTG Coordinator, Inmate Grievance Division, Sex Offender Assessment, the Training Academy, Emergency Preparedness, Paws in Prison, and the Pine Bluff, Randall L. Williams, and Ouachita River Correctional Units.

Rory Griffin became Deputy Director—Health Programs, and George Wilson assumed the role of Administrator of Medical and Dental Services.

Dr. Bill Glover became the new Superintendent of the Arkansas Correctional School, replacing Dr. Dubs Byers, who is retired after 39 years of service.

John “Mark” Wheeler was named the new Assistant Director – Re-entry.

ADC Director Ray Hobbs was sworn in as president of the Southern States Correctional Association at the 45th annual conference held in Savannah, Ga.

The Board of Corrections selected former ADC Director Larry Norris to serve as interim director when Director Ray Hobbs retired in November.

ADC received ‘checks’ symbolic of energy savings and incentives from CenterPoint Energy and Entergy.  The checks for energy efficiency incentives total close to $400,000 from all efforts combined and amount to savings of about $ 2.8 million.

The ADC responded with help when the state suffered some of the heaviest damage and the largest number of deaths from a storm that swept across a large swath of the Plains and Midwest in late April.

An armory built in Springdale in 1947 became the new home for the Northwest Arkansas Work Release Center (NWAWRC).

The recommendation of the renaming of the old Diagnostic Unit in Pine Bluff was approved by the Board of Corrections – in honor of Cpl. Barbara Ester, who was killed by an inmate at the East Arkansas Regional Unit in Brickeys in 2012.

After the England Middle School was deeded to the ADC, the property was converted into a new training academy – the Willis H. Sargent Training Academy that includes administration space, plenty of classroom space, a living quarter, a conference room, and a gymnasium.

ADC teams won top honors.  The 15th annual Southern States Manhunt Field Trials was held in March  at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock.

Sgt. Darren Dill of the Cummins Unit was one of the recipients of the North American Association of Wardens and Superintendents (NAAWS) Medal of Valor.  Dill displayed the true meaning of valor through his actions September 5, 2013 when he entered into an existing fight between inmates and officers and took control of an inmate wielding a knife.

While on vacation, K9 Sgt. Kevin Glover was traveling through Pine Bluff when he noticed a person walking and carrying two long guns. Thinking this was suspicious, Glover notified a Pine Bluff Police Officer-friend.  The guns had been stolen, and this call led to the arrest of the person in suspicion.

Jason Pilkington, a Program Specialist at the Benton Unit, was honored by Sonic of East End with their “Thumbs Up of the Month” award.

Three ADC employees, Mary Prewitt, Gary Hill, and Sgt. Ray Weatherford, were commended recently by Joe J. Volpe, United States Magistrate Judge.

ADC employees showed up for the annual Polar Bear Plunge, tug-o-war, and walk/run, a fundraiser benefitting Special Olympics.  Held at Pine Bluff Regional Park, ADC’s ERT, K9 and other employees participated in the day’s events, and our donation to the event was $1,050.

ADC Central Office K-9 Unit members provided assistance to the Area IX Special Olympics Field and Track Day at the White Hall High School Football Field.

Training to become a member of the elite Emergency Response Team, 30 employees endured 40 hours of harsh physical demands to obtain their ERT pin.

Runners from the Pine Bluff, Wrightsville and Max Units gathered at Saracen Landing in Pine Bluff to carry the torch in the Jefferson County leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Arkansas.

ADC staff stayed busy searching for inmate Timothy Buffington, a trusty inmate assigned to the Pine Bluff Unit who left his work assignment on June 21. He was taken into custody September 18.

Legal resources and research was the topic of a new class offered to ADC staff.  Lisa Wilkins, Attorney Supervisor, along with special guest speakers: Communications Counsel Stephanie Harris and Librarian Rod Miller, both from the Arkansas Supreme Court, and Professor of Librarianship Jessie Burchfield from the UALR Bowen School of Law, taught an informational class at Central Office.

The North Central Unit in Calico Rock, Mississippi County Work Release Center, ADC Central Office, Administration Annex East, and East Arkansas Regional Unit completed their American Correctional Association audit with 100% scores on mandatory and non-mandatory standards.

The Delta Regional Unit in Dermott completed their American Correctional Association audit with 100% on mandatory and 99.76% on non-mandatory standards.

The 2014 (10th annual) ADC Ball and Chain Challenge golf tournament, sponsored by the Employee Associations of the Arkansas Department of Correction and Arkansas Association of Correctional Employees Trust, was held at the Harbor Oaks Golf Course in Pine Bluff.  Proceeds from the event help to support scholarship programs, special events for AACET members and disaster relief services.

The fourth annual ADC horse auction was held at the Saline County Fairgrounds in Benton, bringing in $21,095.

The 25th Annual Red Ribbon Walk/Run, sponsored by the ADC, was held at Jefferson Wellness Center at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff. Proceeds from the 5K run will allow for scholarships to be awarded to graduating high school seniors, either from the county or the child of an ADC employee.

2013

This year marked 100 years since our first execution.

Entergy Arkansas presented the Arkansas Board of Corrections with a rebate check for $27,910 in January for the Department of Correction’s conservation efforts.

ADC Assistant Director Dina Tyler transferred on Aug. 26 to the Arkansas Department of Community Correction. She is now deputy director of public services with that agency.

Mike Carraway returned to the Arkansas Department of Correction as Assistant Director over Administrative Services on Oct. 27, 2013.

Chief Deputy Director Larry May retired in December.

Sgt. Tashayla Jackson was ‘pinned’ as ADC’s first female K9 handler.

Director Ray Hobbs received the Legacy Award from the Association of Women Executives in Corrections at the 17th annual Membership Training Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Bureau of Prisons in Forrest City requested assistance Jan. 31 from the Arkansas Department of Correction K9 Narcotic Interdiction Unit to search for narcotics/tobacco utilizing canines in its Low Security and the Camp Facilities. K9 teams consisted of Sgt. James Mize and K9 Jack, Sgt. Brian Cockrell and K9 Missi, and Sgt. Michael Richardson and K9 Dexter, along with FCC-Forrest City prison staff.

Construction continued at the North Central Unit in Calico Rock. The project consists of a 100-bed barracks and an area for four additional classrooms, non-contact visitation and waste water treatment plant improvements.

Assistant Director Grant Harris, state representative to the Southern States Correctional Association, told SSCA’s Membership Committee that Arkansas currently has 490 members, making it the largest state representation of the 14-state organization.

Assistant Director Dina Tyler was recognized with a Capitol Citation for her contributions to Arkansas. The request for the citation was made by former state Sen. Bobby Glover, who serves on the Board of Corrections.

ADC teams won top honors at the 14th annual Southern States Manhunt Field Trials March 4-8 at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock.  ADC teams took all four places in the pack division (first through fourth—ORCU, Tucker, EARU, Cummins), all four places in the multi-leash division (first through fourth—ORCU, Tucker, Central Office, EARU), three of the four places in the single division (Tucker first, Newport third, Cummins fourth) and all four places in the narcotics division (first through fourth—Sgt. J. Mize, Sgt. D. Reap, Sgt. M. Richardson, Lt. T.A. Moore).

Norway’s Correction System officials toured Arkansas facilities in March to gain insight into eOMIS functions. Norway Corrections is considering the purchase of the electronic Offender Management Information System for use in their country and had requested to observe how different areas utilize the offender tracking system in daily operations.

The Paws in Prison program broke new ground with a 1-year-old flat-coated retriever named Korie, trained at the Ouachita River Correctional Unit to be a “reading dog.” A reading dog promotes reading by sitting with a child while he or she is learning to read.

Bark at Dark, a benefit auction for Paws in Prison, brought in  $25,000 on September 10.

A familiarization class began at the Training Academy for families of BCOT students.

ADC officers participated in the filming of a training video to be produced by Savant Learning Systems of Martin, Tenn.  The filming took place in the old Diagnostic Unit in Pine Bluff.

The 2013 ADC Ball and Chain Challenge golf tournament, sponsored by the employee Associations of ADC and Arkansas Association of Correctional Employees Trust, was held at the Harbor Oaks Golf Course in Pine Bluff. Kevin Murphy, executive director of AACET, said the event raised more than $50,000 net.

ADC employees and Arkansas State Troopers successfully carried the torch on May 23, 2013, from Saracen Landing in Pine Bluff to the Pulaski County line in the 2013 Jefferson County Law Enforcement Torch Run for Arkansas Special Olympics.

The first APAL (Advanced Principles & Application for Life, a re-entry program) graduation was held at the Hawkins Unit.

The ADC made a commitment to utilize inmate work crews when possible to glean donated fruits and vegetables and partnered efforts with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance.

The North Central Unit in Calico Rock became the exclusive location for ADC’s horse program — the breeding and training ground which will supply the other units with work horses.

The ADC moved up to the top notch – blue (all characteristics and all key indicators) on the PBMS (Performance Based Measure System) map.  PBMS is a hierarchical typology of performance standards, measures and key indicators of critical practices that was designed to translate the missions and goals of correctional agencies into a set of measurable outcomes.

The production of a new chicken layer facility began at the Cummins Unit.  The facility was designed to meet ADC’s current egg requirements and at the same time produce a surplus that could be sold to generate income for the Agriculture Division.

Northwest Arkansas Work Release Center began renovations to old Springdale National Guard Armory in order to house 100 work release inmates at the facility.

The third annual ADC horse auction, held at the Saline County Fairgrounds in Benton, was a success bringing in $28,662.  Thirty-three horses, colts and mules sold.

The 24th Annual Red Ribbon Walk/Run, sponsored by the ADC, was at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff.  Proceeds from the 5K run allow for scholarships to be awarded to graduating high school seniors, either from Jefferson County or the child of an ADC employee.

The Pine Bluff Unit and Randall L. Williams Correctional Facility completed their audit with 100% mandatory standards and 99.3% non-mandatory standards met. 

The Northwest Arkansas Work Release Center completed their ACA audit with 100% on the mandatory standards and 99.5% on non-mandatory standards.

The Texarkana Regional Correction Center, Arkansas Correctional Industries, Wrightsville/Hawkins Complex, and Tucker Unit completed its re-accreditation audit and received 100% in both mandatory and non-mandatory standards.

Public scrutiny of the state’s probation and parole agency had a major impact on ADC’s prison population. The more parolees who return to prison, the more bed space ADC needs. ADC has topped its historic population high.

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