Officials of the Arkansas Department of Community Correction presented tougher new parole policies to the Senate Judiciary Committee. They include a proposal to limit the number of violations a parolee may incur before being sent back to prison.

The department operates the state parole system, which has been under pressure to adopt stricter regulations. Under the proposed new rules, a parolee can be sent only twice to the technical violators center. The violator gets sent there after such things as failing to report to his parole officer on a timely basis. The stay in the center is 60 days.

After a third infraction, the parolee would be returned to prison to serve out his sentence behind bars. Another proposed change is to change the 60 day stay in the technical center to 90 days for the first and 120 for the second offense. Parolees who are arrested on new charges for sexual or violent offenses will not be sent to the technical violators center.

The crackdown on the parole violators has filled county jails. The legislature will consider an additional $6 million to open new prison units. Also, the Community Correction Department. wants to hire additional parole officers to bring down the average caseloads, which are now almost twice the national average. More than 16,000 inmates are inside state prison units and another 23,000 are out on parole.

Attorney General McDaniel certified the popular name and ballot title for a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage in the state as a union between two people regardless of sex. This proposal will have to get the necessary signatures to be on the ballot.

Notices went out last week to more than 40,000 food stamp recipients informing them that they have been automatically assigned to a private health insurance plan under the state’s expanded Medicaid program.

The attorney general also named 40 people to the State Task Force for the Prevention of Human Trafficking. This task force was created by the Legislature to help prevent and raise awareness about human trafficking.

The state Department of Education has classified 137 of Arkansas’ 1055 schools as "achieving" meaning they have met their annual achievement targets. The number of achieving schools is down from 336 last year. There are 793 schools that are classified as "needs improvement" The director of the department said that the numbers should not be interpreted that the schools are failing, but that they typically have difficult targets. Data from individual schools is on the Depatment of Education website, along with other information.

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