Legislation to give Arkansas Parole Board more authority may come up in fiscal session

    7:02 PM, Feb 6, 2012   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- More authority is needed for the Arkansas Parole Board, according to several state lawmakers.

    The upcoming fiscal session begins on Feb. 13, and only bills related to the budget can be discussed.

    But a few lawmakers want to propose other legislation.

    Members of the parole board have stated that a 1993 law does not give them proper discretion to deny parole, unless an inmate is convicted of a crime such as murder.

    Several state lawmakers want to give the parole board the authority to deny parole to anyone convicted of a felony sex crimes, including State Representative David J. Sanders of Little Rock.

    "They don't have the option. They can't say, 'this person is a threat and we want to hold them.' We want to give them that option," Representative Sanders said.

    THV visited Safe Places, an organization dedicated to helping victims of sexual abuse. The Executive Director, Kathy Findley, is also the victim of childhood abuse.

    "I can tell you that everything that comes up in the news, everything that happens to someone else can really trigger those memories and be very traumatic for a victim," Findley said.

    For victims of sexual abuse, she added, time helps ease the burden but it never completely goes away.

    "Sometimes the parent of the child experiences just as deep a feeling of betrayal as the child," Findley said.

    She added that it is important the legislation ensures the rights for everyone involved but at the same time--

    "From a victim's perspective, it is a good thing to know that the parole board can hear from families, hear from victims and have some authority to deny parole," Findley said.

    "This needs to stop. We have the power to do it as lawmakers, and quite frankly the constitution gives us the ability to do that and we need to act now," Representative Sanders added.

    In order for lawmakers to even consider a non-financial issue this session, they need a two-thirds majority in each chamber.

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