Parole has long been a component of corrections in Arkansas. The State Penitentiary Board was originally established through Act 1 of 1943. Act 50 of 1968 created the Arkansas Department of Correction and the Board of Pardons and Paroles and renamed the State Penitentiary Board to the Board of Correction. The Board of Correction was tasked with supervision and control of the Department of Correction.
Act 621 of 1969 added two members to the Board of Pardons and Paroles (to be referred to as the “Parole Board”) for a total of five members to be appointed by the Governor to staggered five-year terms. The Board initially met three days each month at various units within the ADC. The Board interviewed inmates to determine who should be placed on parole and set the prescribed conditions of parole. Additionally, they made recommendations to the Governor on applications for pardons and commutations.
The Commission on Community Based Rehabilitation (to be referred to as the “Commission”) was established by Act 378 of 1975. The Commission consisted of five members each appointed by the Governor to staggered five-year terms. The Commission met at least once a month and was primarily responsible for reviewing and certifying alternative service programs, screening files of qualified offenders and recommending expungement of records for eligible offenders who successfully completed a prescribed program.
Act 937 of 1989 abolished the Parole Board and the Commission to create the Board of Parole and Community Rehabilitation. In 1993, legislation revamped the Board of Parole and Community Rehabilitation. This included a name change to the Arkansas Post Prison Transfer Board and a change to four full-time and three part-time members. Subsequent legislation in 1995 and 1997 expanded the number of full-time positions.
In 2005, Act 1033 renamed the Post Prison Transfer Board to the Arkansas Parole Board. The move was designed to alleviate confusion on the part of the public about the duties of the Board. The same year the Parole Board became accredited by the American Correctional Association. In 2007, an Act of the Legislature made all seven Board members full-time employees of the state.
The Board was reaccredited by the American Correctional Association in 2008 and 2011. Also, in 2011, Act 570 required the Board to adopt several evidenced-based practices into its decision-making. Among them, were the development and implementation of a validated risk assessment, expanded reporting, and a structured evidenced-based training curriculum for the Board.
In 2013, Acts 136 and 485 gave the Board discretion over all sex offenses and additional violent and serious felonies respectively.
In 2013 and again in 2014, the Board added additional staff to cope with historic increases in the workload of the Board and to further support its automation efforts. The Board was reaccredited by the American Correctional Association in 2014.
In 2015, Act 895 expanded the Board’s discretion over and placed the day-to-day operations of the Board under the Chairman. Additional legislation during the 2015 legislative session expanded the Board’s role in inmate reentry programming and strengthened the protections afforded to victim impact statements provided to the Board.
The Board was reaccredited by the American Correctional Association in 2017. That same year, Act 539 extended the discretion of the Board specifically relating to certain individuals who were minors at the time of crime commission and Act 423 somewhat limited the Board’s ability to revoke parolees who are considered serious conditions or technical conditions violators.
In 2020, Act 910 created the cabinet-level Department of Corrections (DOC) and transferred the administrative functions of the Parole Board to the DOC. The Board was reaccredited with the American Correctional Association in August 2020.
To effectively and efficiently serve the citizens of Arkansas through the conditional release of offenders via structured and evidenced-based decision-making; thereby ensuring the public’s safety, the empowerment of victims, and that offenders will be provided opportunities for positive behavioral change and held accountable for their actions upon release.
- The Arkansas Parole Board will strive to become a national model for releasing authorities by:
- Making data-driven parole decisions through: (1) The consistent application of nationally recognized evidenced-based approaches. (2) The consideration of all available case information. (3) The application of appropriate decision criteria.
- Stipulating programs, conditions, and services in a manner that enhances the reentry of offenders into the community.
- Responding to parole violations appropriately and effectively by utilizing evidenced-based approaches, and taking into account the severity of the violation and the risks posed by the offender. Providing victims of crime with opportunities to give input and with timely information regarding the decision-making process.
- Collaborating with stakeholders on policies, programs, and processes.
- Streamlining the decision-making process through innovative policies, programs, and technologies.
The Arkansas Parole Board will value fairness, integrity, and innovation.
Public service with fairness and integrity.