Budget hearings: Joint Budget Committee
October 27, 2022
Actions Taken (click to jump to that discussion)
- Department of Corrections approved
- County jail reimbursements
- New facilities (1)
- Medical contracts
- New facilities (2)
- Shared services
- Prisons and levee boards
- Prison alternatives
- Healthcare contract
- Parole violators
- Security cameras
- Issue 4 (Recreational marijuana)
- Mental health contracts
- Inmate communications
- Division of Correction approved
- Community Correction approved
- Sentencing Commission approved
- Parole Board approved
Sen Rice: Good morning, members. I’ll call the Legislative Council Joint Budget Committee Thursday meeting to order. We are concluding the third week today, and we have Department of Corrections. And if Department of Corrections wants to come on up, our analyst, Mr. Dalton Coleman, will be presenting. And when you get up there, Mr. Coleman, you’re recognized.
Coleman (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. I’m Dalton Coleman with the Bureau of Legislative Research. And I’ll give the agency a second to get up here, and we’ll get started. Just so everyone knows– we’ll just be starting on page 209 of your manuals.
Sen Rice: 209, members. If you, gentlemen, will identify yourself, and that way we can go right into questions when our analyst gets through.
Payne (DOC): I’m Dexter Payne, Director for the Division of Correction.
Wimbley (DOC): Lamont Wimbley, CFO for the Department of Corrections.
Sen Rice: Appreciate you gentlemen being here. And, Secretary Graves, if you’ll hit your mic, we’ll have everybody recognized.
Graves (DOC): Mr. Chair, I apologize. I was multitasking.
Sen Rice: That’s fine.
Graves (DOC): That’s completely my fault. Solomon Graves, Secretary of Corrections.
Sen Rice: Welcome. Glad to have you. Mr. Coleman, you are recognized.
Department of Corrections
Coleman (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. So we’re starting on page 209, and this is the division summary for administration and shared services for the Department of Corrections. So starting out, we’ll look at the total agency request. As you can see, for fiscal year 2024 the agency is requesting just under $167 million, for fiscal year 2025 just over $172 million. So within the division, we have two appropriations with change levels, the first being the Criminal Detention Facility Review, and that’s located on page 214. So this appropriation is for ensuring that review committees uphold statement on the standards in local and county jails. It’s funded through the Criminal Detention Facility Review account. Apart from the increases in salary and match that you can see, the agency is requesting a $1,500 increase in operating expenses, and that is for laptops and data processing materials.
Coleman (BLR): The next change level appropriation is the Department of Corrections Shared Services paying account, and that’s on page 216 of your manuals. So on top of salary and match adjustments, the agency is requesting an increase in operating expenses appropriation of just over $6.6 million for fiscal year 2024, just under $7 million for fiscal year 2025. And that’s for advertising and training, IT hardware and software, and to account for reallocation from the Division of Correction and Division of Community Corrections. The agency is also seeking increases in professional fees in the amount of $13.4 million for fiscal year 2024 and $18.5 million for fiscal year 2025. This includes medical contract increases and reallocations from the Division of Corrections and the Sentencing Commission. The executive recommendation does provide for the agency request, but there is a difference. The executive recommendation has the medical contracts line item separated out, while the agency request has it in professional fees. Mr. Chairman, that concludes the change levels for Administration and Shared Services.
Sen Rice: Okay. Thank you. Secretary Graves, do you have any statement before we go to questions?
Graves (DOC): No, sir, Mr. Chair. We’ll jump right on questions if any member has them.
Sen Rice: I have– just a minute. We have Representative Cavenaugh up first.
County jail reimbursements
Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. All the way over here to your right. Thank y’all for being here. My question is going to be on 211 on county jail reimbursement. Does this amount that we’re requesting, I’m assuming this is the monies that we pay the county jails for the prisoners that they’re housing. Is that correct?
Graves (DOC): Yes, ma’am. Yes, ma’am. And this reflects the $40 increase approved in the fiscal session.
Rep Cavenaugh: One thing I hear all the time from the county jails is that they’re having to pay for their mental health, that they’re not getting reimbursed for that. Can you address that?
Graves (DOC): If there is an acute care situation, whether it is mental health or cardiac case or something of that nature, if they will contact the division, we will fast-track them in, but otherwise, as a matter of routine course, the county is responsible for the cost of care. And that is what the reimbursement rate is intended to offset, the county’s cost of care for individuals on the backup list.
Rep Cavenaugh: Well, my understanding is, if they’re having to cover all that, and it’s acute stuff they’re having to cover, the $40 is not going to cut it, as we know that that stuff gets expensive.
Graves (DOC): Yes, ma’am.
Rep Cavenaugh: Can you forward to us in the committee through the staff how the county jails would be asked to request that fast track–
Graves (DOC): Sure.
Rep Cavenaugh: –so that we can be sure and let all of our county judges know?
Graves (DOC): Sure. We’ll get that to Kevin.
Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. Thank you.
Sen Rice: Thank you. If you will, just send that to staff. Representative Wooten, you’re recognized.
Rep Wooten: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. On the county jail situation, what does it cost us at the state level, $65, $70 dollars–
Graves (DOC): Our current per-day rate in the Division of Correction is $68.51.
Rep Wooten: So why such a drastic difference? I mean, I understand that you provide some services, but $40-42 dollars, that’s not enough. I mean, it costs White County $300,000 dollars to take care of the state’s problems, so we got to do something. I mean, are you not asking for any more increase for the county jails?
Graves (DOC): Increases in county jail reimbursement rates have traditionally been handled at the administration level through the governor’s balanced budget proposal and through DFA. That has traditionally not been a process that the department is responsible in. We only act as the disburser once the rate has been set.
Rep Wooten: Well, don’t you think, though, that you’re responsible for prisoner care? And they’re prisoners, and they’re state prisoners. They’ve been sentenced by state court, and we’re expecting the counties to take care of that. And I realize we’re not going to pay– maybe it’s $68 because there’s services that you all provide. But I would encourage y’all to play a bigger role in that. I mean, that’s your responsibility. I don’t care if it’s the governor’s office or who it is, but somebody’s got to step up. And these counties are spending money out of their own treasury funds. Is that not correct?
Graves (DOC): I can’t speak to how the counties are funding their jail operations.
Rep Wooten: Well, they’re spending their money, though. It’s on state prisoners, isn’t it?
Graves (DOC): In some cases, I know there are counties where the reimbursement rate does not cover their costs. I know there are some counties, from conversations that I’ve had with sheriffs, where the reimbursement rate does cover their cost of care. It fluctuates based on their size and the types of services that they’re offering. One thing I do want to reiterate to the committee, our county jail reimbursement– our county jail backup problem is a result of a capacity problem. We have been–
Rep Wooten: Result of what?
Graves (DOC): A capacity problem. We have been working for the last year to proceed with a expansion at the North Central Unit that will provide 500 additional beds for the division. We have a RFQ out now for the design professional for that project. Additionally, next Thursday, I’ll be taking a request to the Board of Correction to authorize us to begin site selection for an additional 1,000-bed facility so we can have a project that we can begin discussing with the next legislature and the next administration. Long term, the biggest benefit we can give the counties is not solely through reimbursement rate increases. That doesn’t fix the problem. The biggest benefit that we can give the counties is to ensure that on the state level, we have adequate capacity to take care of our responsibilities–
Rep Wooten: I agree.
Graves (DOC): –and not pass those along to the counties.
Rep Wooten: That’s the point. We either need to pay them, or we need to take them, the prisoners. So that’s great. I commend you for doing that. One more question. On the sanctioned beds, have you all considered sanctioned beds? When a parolee comes in and they test hot, they go 90 days right then, no questions. They’re out of the– they’re out of the society, and they go back if they test hot on drugs.
Graves (DOC): One of our priorities in the department and among the Board of Correction is to expand our capacity for parole violator sanctioning programs. We are currently now finalizing plans to renovate the former White River Juvenile Detention Facility, which we purchased last year. We’re on track to begin renovations at that facility in January, February of 2023. And we expect to have offenders in that facility in Q1 of 2024. That’s going to be about 175 beds. And based on that 45-to-90-day timeline that you discussed, we expect to be running about 700 offenders through that program a year instead of diverting that parole violator load to the counties, which we’re having to, in part, do now through our short-term revocation program.
Rep Wooten: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen Rice: Thank you. Representative Wooten, I’ll just add, I’m told that the governor is the only one who can amend that rate on county jails, and the legislature can change who can amend that rate if we want to step up and do it. But we would like to put it on somebody else, but it can come right back to us if we want to tackle that. Thank you. Senator Elliott, you’re recognized.
New facilities 1
Sen Elliott: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Graves, has it been determined definitely how we will fund the 100-bed facility that you mentioned?
Graves (DOC): 1,000-bed?
Sen Elliott: 1,000, yeah. 1,000.
Graves (DOC): No, ma’am. No, ma’am. As I said, we’re going to begin that process on Thursday by asking the board to authorize us to proceed with site selection. Ultimately, the final funding decision will be made by the next administration and the next General Assembly.
Sen Elliott: Is it just one site, not two?
Graves (DOC): The request that I will be making on Thursday is just for one site.
Sen Elliott: Okay. And for personnel that we’ve had an issue with from time to time over the years, do you feel now that we are budgeted in a way that pay is not an issue for maintaining folks working in the system, or is that still an issue?
Graves (DOC): We are currently working with the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Budget now on a plan to modernize our compensation structure for our correctional employees. We’ve got to catch up with the larger law enforcement market. I expect that will be an additional conversation that we will be having with the next administration and with the next General Assembly. The Board of Corrections has already signed off into a concept, but the specifics of that plan and how we would, obviously, pay for that plan, because we can’t just say we are going to pay staff something. There has to be a revenue stream that supports it. That’s going to require some long-term conversations with legislative leadership and with the next administration.
Sen Elliott: I guess I can ask them, but I’ll ask you as well. Did you and did the board seek any input from other folks about how you might restructure, what that might look like? You talked– and the people who work in there, in the system, for example.
Graves (DOC): Yes. This has actually been a effort that I began shortly after my tenure in 2020 led by our chief of human resources and training, who conducted salary surveys nationally with other correctional agencies and looked at what I refer to as the SEC member states to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of their compensation structures. And we feel like we are taking the best of what is common across the region and across the profession. We’re not the only state that is having to catch up with the market in terms of modernizing our correctional employee compensation package.
Sen Elliott: I’m sure we’re not. On the medical contract line–
Graves (DOC): Yes, ma’am.
Sen Elliott: –it’s medical contracts. Would you just talk me through– with the ‘s’ on contracts, what are the contracts that are involved in that line item?
Graves (DOC): As Mr. Coleman alluded to, the recommendation on page 216 to add a separate line item was made by the executive. We don’t object to that. We are in the process now of soliciting bids for our next health services contract. It is a single comprehensive contract that provides services to the Division of Correction and the Division of Community Correction. Both divisions receive services under that single contract. One thing that we are intending to do different under this procurement is expand services on the Division of Correction side to include mental health care. We’ve been conducting a pilot for the last year at our unit in Marianna with a privatized model of mental health care delivery, and we’ve seen some extremely positive outcomes from that, so we feel comfortable expanding that. But it’s just one contract that would be paid out of that line item. Bids are due back in December, and we expect to select a bidder– or I expect to make a recommendation to the board, who will ultimately make the selection in late January, early February, and then the review process and funding request will come to the legislature at that time.
Sen Elliott: So that’ll be like a normal procurement process?
Graves (DOC): Yes, ma’am.
Sen Elliott: So is that mental health budget amount a part of what’s reflected on page 216?
Graves (DOC): This–
Sen Elliott: Is that something different?
Graves (DOC): This is a projection–
Sen Elliott: For the whole–
Graves (DOC): –just for placeholder, for lack of a better term. I would not ask any member to consider this to be a hard number on either side, but the final number of what that procurement is going to potentially cost the state will not be ready until, as I said, January, February of 2023.
Sen Elliott: And just one last question. When we put out the bids for the next– this big comprehensive contract, is it going to be in that kind of format going forward? Isn’t this the contract we’ve had for, what, the last 10 we had this–
Graves (DOC): No, ma’am, we’ve had a privatized healthcare delivery model in Arkansas for about 30 years.
Sen Elliott: No, I’m talking about the present contract we have right now.
Graves (DOC): Yeah. Yeah. The present contract is running out it’s 10-year term.
Sen Elliott: It’s a 10-year contract.
Graves (DOC): Yes.
Sen Elliott: Are we going to do– are we going to put that contract out, the request, is it going to be for the comprehensive thing next time around? Or is it going to be–
Graves (DOC): The RFP that was released in September is a comprehensive model. As we’ve surveyed other states that have procured since our last procurement a decade ago, we still believe it is in the state’s best interest to do a bundle delivery–
Sen Elliott: Who’s we?
Graves (DOC): The department and the Board of Corrections continue to feel this is in the state’s best interest to do a bundle delivery model.
Sen Elliott: And so would it make sense to you to think about or talk to– because we are the ones who get the call and we end up calling you, and sometimes we don’t even call you because it’s just too much to carry. What is it about the bundle model that makes you think that this is the best way to procure these contracts for the best care for the folks that we have in our care?
Graves (DOC): Economies of scale.
Sen Elliott: What? Wait, economy of scale?
Graves (DOC): Economy of scale, so–
Sen Elliott: Not delivery of services.
Graves (DOC): No. I was getting to that point, ma’am. I would say the first point is economies of scale. By having a bundle delivery model, personnel, it’s easier for a single vendor to leverage personnel instead of multiple vendors with multiple personnel structures. In something as simple as electronic health records system, we’re able to deploy one EHR across the entirety of our enterprise instead of having an EHR related to direct care, an EHR related to medical, an EHR related to pharmacy, an EHR related to radiological technology. And then the second point is, in terms of a delivery of care, by having a bundled model, we are able to deploy a unified care approach. And that’s part of the reason that a year and a half ago now, Director Payne and I started talking about the utility of bringing in his mental health care services. Because we know that when you have that physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner working hand in hand with that dentist, working hand in hand with that optometrist, working hand in hand in the case moving forward with that mental health care provider, all on the same team, all under the same system, you don’t have those barriers as you would if you had a company that did X, a company that did Y, and a company that did Z.
Sen Elliott: And, Mr. Chair, I want to get one more clarification because–
Sen Rice: If you will. Because I’ve got a list.
Sen Elliott: Okay. I’ll make it quick. Okay. I’ll make it quick. So have you done an evaluation– I’m asking this question because I didn’t think this was a good idea to start with– I’ll just put it on the table– this whole big bundle when we did this 10 years ago or whenever it was. Have you done an evaluation to convince yourself and the board, done an evaluation, “I think this is the best model for us”?
Graves (DOC): Yes.
Sen Elliott: And would you please share–
Graves (DOC): Yes.
Sen Elliott: –the results with us to show us that?
Graves (DOC): Sure. We started working on the procurement process in September of 2021. Everything is running together at this point, but we started working on the structure of our RFP in September of 2021 to include working with other states across the country and seeing the best and worst among them.
Sen Elliott: But I asked for the evaluation you have done to convince you that this is the way we should go. We can talk about that. But that’s what my question is, not about everything else you said.
Graves (DOC): Sure.
Sen Elliott: Okay?
Graves (DOC): Yes, ma’am.
Sen Rice: Thank you. Feel free to get back in the queue. Representative Tosh, you’re recognized.
New facilities 2
Rep Tosh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Secretary Graves and Director Payne, I appreciate y’all. I appreciate the job you do. Public safety is something that we really need to be concerned about. And I think, as we move forward and crime is on the rise, that public safety is going to be one of our priorities. And I think one of the ways to promote public safety and be able to fight crime is we’ve got to have the bed capacity to be able to house these prisoners and people that commit those crimes. Our Department of Corrections doesn’t need to be like a revolving door, and I know you’re faced with that. And as I was listening to your testimony about the expansion, I guess my question would be– I know we have numerous people that are being backlogged in county jails, and with the numbers that you put out a while ago about the 1,000-bed expansion– and I can’t remember all that you said. But is that going to be enough beds to take care of the backlog that we have? And as we move forward, are we going to have the bedding in our Department of Corrections around the state to be able to house those that are committing the crimes?
Graves (DOC): Currently, the backup in the Division of Corrections is about 1,500. The expansions that I ran through for Representative Wooten would address where we are today. We’re going to have to have conversations both internally amongst the board, with legislative leaders, and the incoming administration about, long term, what we do. Capacity has to be a part of those conversations, but making sure that we are implementing programs and services that, as you said, slow that revolving door has to be a part of those conversations. I am a huge believer, both personally and professionally, in our community correction, in our parole violator sanction model. Making sure that we’re pumping adequate resources into both of those interventions, which we know work, also has to be part of those conversations. Prison beds are one piece, but they’re not the only piece of the solution long term to meet our public safety goals.
Rep Tosh: And I agree. But it is one piece of the puzzle that we have to make sure that we have in place as we move forward to fight crime and promote public safety. We have to have that bedding to be able to house those individuals that are committing the crimes, and I agree with that. I guess my question is– I think you answered it. So the expansions and the beds that you’re moving forward with now, is that going to be enough to– I couldn’t catch all those numbers. Is that going to be enough to eliminate the backlog that are in our county jails at this time?
Graves (DOC): It would. If those beds were online today, it would be enough to address our backup where we are today. It is not going to be enough to address our projected growth if we don’t implement efforts that continue to slow and hopefully reverse that growth trend.
Rep Tosh: Okay. And thank you. One last question, Mr. Chair, and I appreciate it. You talk about projected growth. Just kind of bring me up to date where we’re at. I know during the last fiscal session, we approved, I believe, the funding to build a 500-bed prison. Is that correct?
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir.
Rep Tosh: Can you tell me where we’re at with that? And that was not part of what you were referencing while ago when you were talking about the expansions. Is that correct?
Graves (DOC): That project at Calico Rock was part of those numbers. We issued the request for qualifications last week in order to secure the design professional for that project. We spent the– it took about six months to craft what we believe to be a solid conceptual budget, conceptual plan for that RFQ. That conceptual plan was approved by the Board of Corrections at its September meeting. Once we get bids back for the design professional, they will draw final plans for the project, which will allow us to proceed to selection for a general contractor. Once that GC is engaged, we’ll have a final budgetary number. My hope is that it comes in close to what the legislature has already authorized. Obviously, we all know first hand the inflationary pressures that the entirety of our economy is dealing with right now, so there potentially may be a need for additional conversations with the incoming administration and General Assembly if those numbers do not align. But that’s where we are with that project, sir.
Rep Tosh: Okay. Thanks for the update. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Sen Rice: Thank you. Members, I do have a full board, so if you get few questions in, and then we’ll rotate you back in. Senator Hammer, you’re recognized.
Sen Hammer: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good morning. On the federal prisoners or on the federal facilities where those that are in the backup should be going to, do you have any information about where the feds are about expanding their capabilities in order for us to be able to move those, or is that relevant at all to this discussion?
Graves (DOC): I’m not plugged in with what the Bureau of Prisons is doing with their capacity or the numbers that they have in counties, if I follow your question, sir.
Sen Hammer: You are. I mean, I was wondering how many federal– how many prisoners in the county backup jail belong to the federal government that can’t get moved out because the feds don’t have the capacity to move.
Graves (DOC): I would have to– Senator Hammer, I suggest maybe reaching out to the Association of Counties, the Sheriffs’ Association, but I wouldn’t even begin to know that number.
Sen Hammer: Okay. And then on the discussion that Representative Tosh was having about the current– you’re talking about 1,000. I remember a meeting a few months ago that they projected– and are you, in your estimations, considering that they’re projecting like a 10% growth rate for 10 years out or whatever that percentage was so that we’re not having to come back in 5 years and have this discussion again if we can get a new jail built?
Graves (DOC): Right now, we’re growing at about 1.5% and 1.7% over a 10-year term. These numbers reflect where we are, what we need today to address our problems today. We have made the decision that because there are some long-term issues and we’re 60 days out, I guess 90 maybe, from a change in administration, that a long-term request beyond where we are today is something that would be best left for conversation with the incoming administration. I can assure you it is my preference and the preference of the Board of Corrections that we don’t trickle this out over the next several years, that if we are going to have to make a bed request, a multi-thousand bed request, that that be done sooner rather than later and not done over the next two, three, four biennium.
Sen Hammer: All right, last question is on your budget, shared services on page 216.
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir.
Sen Hammer: The phrase shared services as reflected in your budget, is that within your agency, or is that with shared services that we set up under legislation a few sessions ago?
Graves (DOC): Our shared services model reflects the language that the General Assembly authorized. These are administrative functions and procurements that touch two or more divisions within the department where we have identified that the most effective and efficient delivery model is to centralize those under one umbrella. These are things like accounting, HR, personnel, legal, procurement,–
Sen Hammer: Okay.
Graves (DOC): — IT.
Sen Hammer: All right, so as you move– because I noticed that the costs are going up from– I’m looking at 2021, it’s at $95 million. You get on out to 2025, it’s $114 million. As you shift costs from other areas into the shared transfer services, are you reducing costs in other categories, or is it just giving you breathing room to function within your budget and reallocate those funds to some other usage?
Graves (DOC): Both, sir. The increase year to year– most recently, we shifted staff in our legal division and in our training academies to our shared services umbrella. We’ve also moved some additional contracts into our shared services umbrella. For me, I look at things from two perspectives. One, are we bending? Are we controlling cost? And two, are we improving service delivery? And every move that we make into shared services or through our shared services division preferably meets both of those, allowing us to reduce costs and improve delivery, but in some cases, cost is remaining flat, but we’re improving our delivery of internal services.
Sen Hammer: Alright. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Sen Rice: Senator Chesterfield, you’re recognized.
Prisons and levee boards
Sen Chesterfield: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Secretary Solomon, the Wrightsville unit–
Graves (DOC): Yes, ma’am.
Sen Chesterfield: –is a part of the Woodson Levee system.
Graves (DOC): Yes, ma’am.
Sen Chesterfield: And I’m wondering, is there any place in your operating expenses– are you working to try to mitigate the problems that we have there?
Graves (DOC): Yes. We have been in conversations with your levee board for I know the last year. From my understanding, they’re looking at some external funding sources. We take care of the maintenance of that levee, but in terms of direct funding for upkeep– when I say maintenance, I’m talking about clearing trees and brush, those types of things in order to maintain the structural integrity of the levee running along our property. But in terms of any direct funds, no, ma’am, we don’t have a funding stream to support operations and of that levee or in other locations where we have levees running adjacent to our property.
Sen Chesterfield: Okay, so if, God forbid, we have another great flood, it could have a deleterious impact on the Wrightsville unit.
Graves (DOC): Along with others, yes.
Sen Chesterfield: Along with others.
Graves (DOC): Yes, ma’am. That’s not the only property we have that is bordered by rivers.
Sen Chesterfield: And what are the others?
Graves (DOC): Cummins. Yes, Cummins and Wrightsville.
Sen Chesterfield: So you have made no recommendations as to how, being a good partner, you could work with those communities to mitigate the impact by making sure that the gates are opening properly and that kind of thing? That’s not in there.
Graves (DOC): As I said, our partnership with both levee boards have been in terms of maintenance, clearing brush, trees, and other behaviors that aid to the structural integrity of those levees. But in terms of those engineering type things, the gates, that is a responsibility of the levee boards themselves.
Sen Chesterfield: So when they ask me about it, and they continue to ask me about partnering with you, when was the last time you guys cleaned all that stuff you’re talking about that is a part of your operating expenses. When was the last time that was done? Give me a year.
Graves (DOC): We can follow up. It’s an ongoing thing at both locations. We can get with–
Sen Chesterfield: Because I’m not hearing about that. I’m just hearing that they’re trying to get a meeting with you and they can’t get a meeting with you, and there’s one supposed to be coming up in Wrightsville.
Graves (DOC): I was going to say, I was in a meeting with one of my general counsels last week, and he mentioned–
Sen Chesterfield: There is a meeting coming up, am I right?
Graves (DOC): — being in contact with the levee board chair. But we’ll clarify the timeline of recent communications and also the work we’ve been doing on your levee and the one down at Cummins.
Sen Chesterfield: All right, I’d appreciate it. Thank you.
Graves (DOC): Yes, ma’am.
Sen Rice: Thank you, Representative Hodges, you are recognized.
Rep Hodges: Thank you, Mr. Chair. A couple of questions I need to ask. Public safety is extremely important, but my question is, as far as budgeting is concerned, in those conversations that you guys are having, are you all looking at ways to cut back on the cost? Because Arkansas incarcerates a lot. And rather than looking at measures on building more beds, are we looking at measures on trying to get these guys transitioned out of these prisons? And I heard Senator Elliott mention about mental health issues. We’ve seen the fact that a lot of these inmates have mental health issues. Is incarcerating them the answer, or do we need to look at building mental health facilities in the state rather than adding more prison beds? And what are we doing to save money rather than continue to throw money at our criminal justice system?
Graves (DOC): Sure. And I’ll go back to the answer that I gave Representative Tosh. Prison capacity is one piece of a larger solution. Two things that we’ve done. One I want to highlight is legislatively. As part of last session’s Dream Big initiative, I am extremely proud of the work we’ve done to modernize our career technical education delivery within the department. Over the last two years, through the impact of that legislation, we have been able to pump in about $2 million additional dollars into career technical education for our inmate population. You may have seen recent media coverage of the heavy equipment simulator program that we implemented through that reorganization and reallocation of resources at our Varney unit. We now have a career technical education model that, in terms of instructional delivery, looks like what I’m sure all of you are proud of among your K-12 schools in your district. And that is what we wanted as a correctional system, that the students within our school district, whether they’re getting GED instruction, whether they’re getting career technical education instruction, are getting a world-class education that prepares them to be full-fledged members of this 21st century economy.
Graves (DOC): Second thing I want to highlight as part of legislative efforts, and this was something that, when I became aware of it, really didn’t sit well with me. And that is we had a barrier in statute to provide remedial instruction to inmates. We had made a decision at a state that we would restrict our school district to only provide services to inmates that don’t have a GED or a high school diploma. The problem with that was simply getting a GED or a high school diploma, unfortunately, in some areas of the state, did not mean they were able to read, write, and spell their name and do one plus one and get two. Yet we were trying to teach them how to weld. Yet we were trying to teach them how to be a HVAC repairman. Yet we were trying to teach them how to be a heavy equipment or small engine mechanic. We fixed that in the last session. And so now when we’re putting a inmate into a career technical education program, before we even start them down that road, we’re able to do academic proficiency baselining, see what level they’re functioning on. And if they’re not functioning at a level where they can meet the demands of that class, then we’re putting them into remedial instruction before we start their job training.
Inmate mental health
Graves (DOC): In terms of mental health care, we worked with the Department of Human Services as they were crafting the state’s most recent expansion waiver, which I know is– I guess we’re still waiting on some approvals from CMS in Washington, DC. But part of that waiver, once fully approved by CMS, will include a component where expansion dollars will be able to be received by our local hospitals for the delivery of substance use treatment. We know the best place to treat someone with a substance use disorder, with a mental health care issue, is not in a carceral setting. Unfortunately, myself, Director Payne, and Director Bradshaw are the largest mental health and drug treatment providers in the state of Arkansas. That’s a problem. We’ve got to reverse that. And one of the ways we think long term we can reverse that is through the implementation of that revised waiver program, once that comes out of CMS.
Graves (DOC): Internally, one of the things that government is really good at is doing what it’s always done. And that’s not always a good thing. So a year and a half ago, when Director Payne and I were having one of our regular conversations about what can we do different, one of the things that we realized we could do different and we needed to do different is enhance our service, our mental health care services. We looked at where our highest need was, where we were having the most problems in terms of recruiting and retaining mental health care staff. And that was our unit in Brickeys. And we made the decision to self fund a pilot for 18 months. That procurement runs through June of this year, where we’re partnering with our healthcare provider to deliver mental health care at that location. And we’ve seen increased outcomes from that, both in terms of the quantity of services that are being delivered, but also the quality of the services that are being delivered. Last thing I want to highlight– and we’ll follow up with staff if there are any other questions you have. I realize I’m seeing a lot of lights here.
Graves (DOC): One of my first actions as Secretary of Corrections was to establish a Quality Improvement Division within the department. And what that Quality Improvement Division does is reporting directly to me, they’re taking a independent look at all of our programs and services across the department. Because what I wanted is to be able to articulate to my board, articulate to my governor, articulate to this legislature and future legislatures that when I have the opportunity to sit down across from you and talk about programming, I can honestly tell you these are the programs we have that are working. That are evidence based. That are empirically sound. That are having a positive impact on reducing recidivism. These are the areas that we need to work in. Once we identify those areas that we need to work in, that we’re also able to implement actionable steps to address those areas of improvement. And we’ve been able to do that over the last two years.
Rep Hodges: Mr. Chair, just a little follow up.
Sen Rice: Okay, go ahead. We’ve got a full board.
Rep Hodges: Okay, I know. I see all the lights are lit up. Thank you, Secretary Graves, for all that information. My question going back, you mentioned career technical program. I’m glad to see our inmates are getting GED and things of that nature, but what are they doing? That didn’t answer the question of recidivism. As far as, are they still sitting in prison with the GED? Are they still incarcerated with this technical certificate? What are we doing to transition them out of the system so they can utilize these programs that they’ve received while they’re incarcerated?
Graves (DOC): Sure. So program completion in and of itself is independent of release determination. While the Board of Correction has, through its statutory authority, identified programming, whether it is GED, or whether it is vocational technical training, whether it is treatment, identified those programs where completion does allow an inmate to receive meritorious good time, which speeds up their track to the parole board. Ultimately, it’s that release determination by the parole board. But from my experience with previous boards and with our current board, there is strong weight given to inmates that have taken advantage of the self-improvement opportunities that are available within our system.
Rep Hodges: I have a ton of more questions, but thank you.
Sen Rice: If you’ll get back in the queue. Senator Irvin, you’re recognized.
Sen Irvin: Hi. Thank you. Thank you so much for the update about the education and how that’s working. I really appreciate that. It was really fun partnering with you on that and just so needed, I think. And I really appreciate that and look forward to seeing the results of that education restructuring as we continue to make those improvements. Second, please pass along our appreciation to all the people that work in our correctional facilities. It’s a tough job. Third, I appreciate the move to eliminate the hazardous pay and roll that into the base. I think that’s really important. Can you give me– you said we have RFQ that’s going out for the construction at the North Central Unit.
Graves (DOC): Yes, ma’am.
Sen Irvin: Do you have a timeline on when that might be completed or any ideas about that?
Graves (DOC): I know it’s been released, Senator, but I’ll have to follow up with our procurement office and get the actual timeline on when we’ll get bids back from– when bids are due from those interested design professionals.
Sen Irvin: Okay. And then the idea is just to start construction as soon as one is selected?
Graves (DOC): Yeah. Based on other projects, I would say we’re probably– factoring in the review process by DBA, I would say we’re probably third quarter of 2023 before we’d be in a position to start turning dirt.
Sen Irvin: Okay. And then the final question. Have y’all done a statewide assessment about county jail backup as to which prisoners that are being held there or inmates that are being held there are there for– waiting for a trial date or waiting for a bed at the state hospital, or are there because of lack of space in a prison?
Graves (DOC): The only numbers that we track within the department are those from the point of conviction forward. Detainees that are waiting a court date or offenders that are awaiting a bed in ASH, while I know those are issues for the sheriffs, we wouldn’t be the best source of those numbers. We can only give you trends about from the point of conviction forward.
Sen Irvin: Right. Because the county jail backup is such a more complex issue. It’s not just about those that are convicted waiting for a bed at a prison. It’s about all those other things. And so I’m trying to understand. We have to have a way to really understand exactly who are the detainees in a county jail and where that problem is. Because there’s logjams at all these different areas, and if you don’t fix all of them, we’re going to just continue with that same problem. So there’s got to be some breakdown of the silos there so that we can have a better understanding. And I want to just give that back to you guys to try to figure out how we do that, because a lot of it is waiting on a court date because of the back up there, or a bed at the hospital, or mental health. And I know that CMS and DHS is working to try to identify county jails where they could actually create a mental health crisis unit within that same type of facility. So just for the benefit of the membership, that is ongoing. So I do appreciate that cooperation and collaboration. I think that’s really important. So, okay, I just appreciate that, but I would just task you guys to try to figure out a way to really assess that so we can get real numbers about those folks. Thanks.
Graves (DOC): Yes, ma’am.
Sen Rice: Thank you. Senator Hester, you are recognized.
Sen Hester: Thank you, Director Graves. I think what you guys do is the most important thing we do in the state, and I appreciate all you guys hard work. I’ve asked you a few questions. Recently, we talked on the phone about the new health care contract. What do you refer to that as? The new 10-year contract that’s coming, the RFP?
Graves (DOC): The formal solicitation is the Department of Corrections Comprehensive Medical Health Services Procurement.
Sen Hester: Okay. It’s a 10-year contract, maybe as much as a billion dollars. And I just kind of wanted to reaffirm our conversation that we expect to have four or five or six bids. I know you said six people at least looking at it. I just want some assurances that we’re going to have many people bid on this and it’s going to be a very competitive process.
Graves (DOC): Yes. Publicly, what I told Senator Hester last week, last week we had mandatory site visits from vendors that had indicated an interest in potentially bidding on this procurement opportunity. I told you six. I was corrected after we talked. The correct number is seven vendors that were on site last week for those site visits at locations within the Division of Correction and the Division of Community Correction. We will receive bids back. Bids are due to the Office of State Procurement on December 7. We will then begin a 30-day evaluation period, which will culminate in early January with interviews of those bidders who return bids in early December. And we will, at that point, the evaluation committee– while I will have also been reviewing the bids after they come in, the evaluation committee will make a recommendation to me. If I feel comfortable about that recommendation, I will then sit down with the administration at that time and take a request to the Board of Corrections, I expect, early February. And right now, we are intending to post the anticipation of the award somewhere around mid February of 2023. Once that process is complete, if there are any protests that have to be resolved, that process is resolved. And we’ll, likely early spring, be sitting in front of ALC and Review asking for legislative review of the contract with the goal of implementing that contract July 1 of 2023.
Sen Hester: Thank you. We’ve been having some different discussions on EBD and stuff, but it got me thinking. UAMS handles a lot of that for certain parts of the state. Is it possible that UAMS could be a vendor for all this healthcare that we’re doing? If we’re going to spend a billion dollars, why send it to New York or Chicago when we could just spend it here in the state? Have we even entertained UAMS handling the health care at our prisons?
Graves (DOC): I know there’ve been conversations in the past about a hospital-based delivery model. There was no expression of interest this time around in those bids. But we will– I have a conversation with the board set for next week. And if that’s an issue we need to revisit, we’ll revisit it.
Sen Hester: Yeah, there may be some very clear reasons they can’t do it, but $100 million a year and leaving that here versus going somewhere else would seem compelling to me. But thank you for your time.
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir.
Sen Rice: Representative Rye, you are number six.
Rep Rye: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Last year, when we were working on our budgets, it came up about the loss of guns and ammo in some of our prisons. And I just wonder where we are, Solomon, as far as what’s going on with the audit and where we’re at, because that could be a dangerous situation if not gotten a handle on.
Graves (DOC): Following legislative passage of the language establishing a statutory requirement of an annual firearms and ammunition audit within the department, I issued a directive out of my office to implement that language. The first review is due to my office by the end of this calendar year.
Rep Rye: Thank you, Solomon.
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir.
Rep Rye: Thank you very much.
Sen Rice: Who’s sitting in Representative Gray’s seat? Representative Ray, you are recognized.
Rep Ray: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And good morning, Secretary Graves. I came in a little bit late, so if you addressed the parole absconder issue, I apologize. But I was checking the data the other day on the Department of Corrections website, and I think the number of parole and probation absconders that we’re up to is north of 12,600 currently. That seems like a staggering number. It’s higher than the population of about 20 different Arkansas counties. So my question, essentially, is what is the department’s view on that? How concerning is it? And is it going in the right direction or the wrong direction?
Graves (DOC): It is not where we want it to be. Director Bradshaw will join me at the table. We are constantly working to reengage those offenders on active supervision. One of the things we’ve done over the last almost six months now is expand our intensive supervision program, focusing on Pulaski County and those counties that border Pulaski by putting 14 additional officers out on the street, specially trained, engaging in a caseload that is high risk, and attacking it from two ways. One, by intensively supervising that population, we’re hoping that they don’t abscond supervision, because my view of this has always been you’re not going to abscond if you’re fully compliant. If you’re not using drugs, if you’re not engaged in criminal activity, you have no reason not to show up to your officer. When you’re engaging in behavior that somehow violates the terms of your supervision, that’s when you’re going to quit coming in. So we want to make sure that we remain in contact with those individuals, that we don’t lose contact with them and they add to that 12,000, which is unacceptably high. The other piece to it is what I talked about with Representative Wooten early on, we got to have a place to sanction them for their behavior when we reengage them. We’re doing that with our renovations of the facility in Batesville, and we expect every year to be able to run about 700 offenders through that. We’re on the lookout now for other opportunities to establish sanction centers across the state to address that behavior, to give those offenders a wake-up call, other than continuing to transfer them to the Division of Correction, which only compounds another problem, which is not enough prison beds. The last thing I want to highlight is we’re undergoing an effort now to expand our efforts toward implementing a risk-based supervision model. Part of that effort includes making sure that we have a risk assessment tool that is validated and effectively addresses and screens our populations. Once we do that, one of my challenges and the board’s challenges to Director Bradshaw and his leadership team is that we are focusing resources on those who are at greatest risk for failure, whether that failure is absconding, or whether that failure is new criminal activity, whether that failure is anything else that may lead to revocation of supervision. Director Bradshaw, go ahead.
Bradshaw (DOC): Jerry Bradshaw, Director, Division of Community Correction. To answer your question, sir, we take that number very seriously. Over the last year, we had an effort with our officers to send them through a US Marshalls program so that they can fly armed. And I am sending people all over the country to pick people up monthly. Although we haven’t made a dent in it to my satisfaction over the last year, it has remained static over the last year. It grew quite a bit during the COVID two years, that time period, and it grew to where it is now. But yes, we are– Secretary Graves spoke to– a lot of these individuals, if it’s purely absconding, it is considered a technical violation. So those folks would go to a sanction center if they come back and they don’t have new charges. So it is important that we have that bed space in order to do that.
Rep Ray: Thank you for that. And I remember you bringing up the issue of the need for adequate sanction space when we’d spoken previously. I do have one additional question. And I think I heard you say in response to Representative Tosh’s question about– I think you said that, correct me if I’m wrong, that the 500-bed expansion at the North Central unit would clear up the backlog in the county jails. And I’m curious how that would be adequate, since I think we have about 1,600 state prisoners in the county jails. Can you help me?
Graves (DOC): My response to Representative Tosh was, if today we had online the projected 500-bed expansion at the North Central unit, plus the additional 1,000 beds that, on next Thursday I’m going to ask the Board of Correction to authorize me to begin the site selection process– taking those two projects together, if they were online today, it would address our backup as it stands today.
Rep Ray: Gotcha. That math makes more sense. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.
Sen Rice: Thank you. I’m starting on repeat, members. Senator Hammer, you’re recognized.
Sen Hammer: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I’d caught wind of a contract that y’all are maybe negotiating or taking bids on for a new security camera system. Do you know anything about that? Can you give me a quick update on that and how that’s going to impact your budget?
Graves (DOC): We actually met on Monday afternoon. We had a division director’s meeting. We will be taking a request to the Board on Thursday to authorize us to get that project approved as a capital improvement project. We will be crafting a RFP, which I expect to go out in Q1 of 2023. We don’t have that on the street today. We are actively talking internally as to what the scope of that project is. One of the ways– and I want to give Director Payne credit on this. This is something that he’s been working on for, I guess, almost two and a half, three years now. We can’t– we have to accept that the staffing challenges that we’re facing in our profession is creating opportunities for us to do better and do different in our profession. And one of the ways we really feel like we can do different is by better leveraging technology, especially surveillance technology, to reduce the staffing burden that we have to account for now with our current model. It’s a priority of us. We don’t have hard fast dollars as to what that is going to ultimately cost. But that is a conversation that we are currently having. And there will be an RFQ out early 2023.
Sen Hammer: So is it currently a RFQ or RFP that’s out there?
Graves (DOC): Do we have a camera– we don’t have a camera procurement out now. We’re actively working on crafting one.
Sen Hammer: Okay, okay. Thank you.
Sen Rice: Representative Cavenaugh, you are recognized.
Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. My question is going to be on page 216 under shared service paying. We have a line item, regional jails. Can you tell me what that payment is for?
Graves (DOC): That line item was intended to fund the South Arkansas Regional Jail between Drew and Bradley counties, but they have not brought that project online yet.
Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. When you say was, are you trying to tell me they’re not going to?
Graves (DOC): I have not seen movement from those counties to implement that project.
Rep Cavenaugh: Why are we still asking for the appropriation?
Graves (DOC): That money is– if that project could come online, it would benefit us. I want to be very clear. I’m not closing the door on that project, but it has not come online in the last two years. We actually, I’m trying to remember my last conversation. I don’t want to speak for the counties. Representative Cavenaugh, if I could follow up with staff after the meeting with a status on where that project is, because my memory is beginning to fail me right now.
Rep Cavenaugh: Yes, if you don’t mind.
Graves (DOC): Yes, ma’am.
Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you.
Sen Rice: Thank you. Representative Wooten, you’re recognized.
Rep Wooten: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, I have three areas I want to address. First one is on page 222. Under shared services, you had an actual expenditure of $84 million, but in the future biennium, you’re asking for $96 million. That’s $12 million. First of all, what shared services is that? And why a $12 million increase?
Graves (DOC): Mr. Coleman’s advised me that is actually in the Division of Correction. I guess we’re still technically on the shared services budget. If the committee is okay with moving to the next division, I don’t want to–
Sen Rice: We’re going to have that, I’m told.
Coleman (BLR): So if I may add, there are some transfers from the Division of Correction to shared services. I believe that’s what is showing on the Division of Correction appropriation summary.
Graves (DOC): So there’s no direct funding given–
Rep Wooten: Well, there’s still an increase, what–
Graves (DOC): There’s no direct funding given to shared services. We transfer that money up from the divisions within the departments.
Rep Wooten: To the central office? To your central office, is that where–
Graves (DOC): Yes. Yeah.
Rep Wooten: So your–
Graves (DOC): Well, our shared services is housed in multiple locations across the department physically, but yeah, at the department level.
Rep Wooten: Well, I’m not– it’s still $12 million more than it has been. Where is that money coming from?
Graves (DOC): 222. I’m trying to–
Rep Wooten: Are you asking for an increase?
Graves (DOC): No, sir. That is not new money. That is reflective of–
Rep Wooten: Transfer money?
Graves (DOC): That is reflective of additional items that we are proposing to transfer to our shared services. That is additional contracting and professional fees and also M&O related to training, HR, legal, and IT hardware and software needs.
Rep Wooten: But it’s not new money.
Graves (DOC): No, sir.
Rep Wooten: It’s just money you’re transferring within your central office operation, is that right?
Wimbley (DOC): Yeah. Actually, what we did when we transferred shared services over in the last biennium, we mainly transferred positions over. And eventually we transferred some M&O for the training academy and for legal services. In this biennium, we went ahead and transferred all of the M&O for accounting, procurement, and those functions. So that’s why it looks like it’s a big increase. We’re just transferring it from the divisions over into shared services.
Graves (DOC): But it’s existing money that’s already– we’re just moving it from one bucket to another bucket.
Rep Wooten: Okay.
Rep Wooten: Secondly, on personnel, I have a report that shows you have 1,837 vacancies within the department.
Graves (DOC): Across the department, yes.
Rep Wooten: Across the department. 120 of those are over 2 years old. And in the Department of Corrections, you have 4,054 budgeted, and 40% of those are vacant, 1,583. And of that, 106 are over 2 years old. My question is, is that primarily correctional officers?
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir.
Rep Wooten: And secondly, what makes up the 106? What positions have been vacant for over 2 years?
Graves (DOC): Let me get my HR chief. He’s going to be the best person to say what those positions are. But yes, sir. The majority of those vacant positions in the Division of Correction are going to be correctional employees. As I talked to– as I referenced with Senator Elliott, we are working with the Office of Budget now and the Office of Personnel Management on a plan to modernize–
Rep Wooten: I understand that.
Graves (DOC): Until we get our compensation to where it needs to be, we’re going to continue to have those challenges. But the vast, vast majority of the challenges that our division directors are experiencing with vacancies are in our uniformed staff.
Rep Wooten: Yeah. Well, I’ve been privy to that information, and so has the Personnel Committee on the research that’s being done and the development of a new budget. But I’m asking about the 106 that have been vacant for over 2 years.
Graves (DOC): Those are related to food services and security positions, based on the notes I’m looking at here.
Rep Wooten: But do you think– do you do an age trial balance on that relative to how long they’ve been vacant? 3 years, 4 years?
Graves (DOC): Sorry, Representative. Can you ask that question for me again?
Rep Wooten: Okay. Do you know the age of those positions? Have some of them been vacant 4 and 5 and 6 years? And are they budgeted positions?
Graves (DOC): We can get that data for you as to that last field data in there–
Rep Wooten: Okay, I’d like the–
Graves (DOC): –and whether or not they’re budgeted or unbudgeted.
Issue 4 (Recreational marijuana)
Rep Wooten: Mr. Chairman, I’d like, if they would, to provide us with a report on the dollar amount of the budgeted positions that are budgeted and unbudgeted versus– budgeted versus unbudgeted, so we’ll know how much money we’re tying up in anticipated salaries now. But I understand the battle that you’re facing. One last question. You’ve talked an awful lot, and I appreciate your vision of the future in talking about the new administration and your board and then the legislature. Let me ask you this. In all those subjects and conversations that you’re having, are y’all developing a contingency plan to deal with Issue 4 if it passes?
Graves (DOC): The Board of Corrections, at a recent call, took the formal stance of expressing their opposition to Issue 4. From a purely professional perspective, anytime you increase the prevalence of drug use, you increase the risk of drug abuse. And that is a concern for the department. We see every day what that risk is. Individuals continually chasing that first high, and when they’re unable to achieve that first high, proceeding to harder drugs or proceeding to more illicit activities. We are having conversations internally about what that looks like. But I will say the concerns that the Board of Corrections expressed in their resolution last month are shared throughout the department leadership at various levels.
Rep Wooten: And I appreciate that. I mean, to me, that took intestinal fortitude for them to stand up and do that, and I agree with that. In your conversation and discussions, have you been talking with the chiefs of police, the Sheriff’s Association, relative to how they perceive what’s going to happen out here on the streets whenever that becomes legal, should it become legal?
Graves (DOC): No, sir. I have not.
Rep Wooten: Are they making any preparation?
Graves (DOC): I have not–
Rep Wooten: See, that’s what concerns me. I hear an awful lot of talk about 45 million flowing into law enforcement. That’s a minuscule amount of money that it’s going to cost the state if Issue 4 passes. And you’re the first person that I’ve had an opportunity to ask that question of. And I’ve had no one else, the Health Department, DHS or anyone else, to express a concern relative to the cost of the taxpayers of this state. And I guarantee you it will be more than $450 million. And thank you, and thank your board for their forthrightness. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen Rice: Thank you. Representative Wooten, Kevin made a note, and he’ll get that personnel information for you and your co-chair, Senator Wallace, for your Personnel Committee.
Rep Wooten: Okay, thank you.
Sen Rice: Thank you. Senator Elliot, you’re recognized, and then Senator Hester.
Mental health contracts
Sen Elliott: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chair. Director Graves, on page 216, I think, where we had the medical contracts, I think you said the mental health contracts are a part– that the cost is in that. So does this mean the mental health contracts then will be funded separate from the bundle contract that we have right now? Is that separate from that and would be a standalone and not a part of that bundle contract?
Graves (DOC): No, ma’am. Our intention and the bid we have out on the street now provides for medical, mental health, dental, pharmaceutical services, all under one delivery model, under one delivery.
Sen Elliott: But currently the mental health is not in it, or it is in it?
Graves (DOC): Currently in the Division of Community Correction, mental healthcare is already a part of the contract. In the Division of Correction, at all units except for the East Arkansas Regional unit, mental health is provided through state FTEs. At the East Arkansas Regional unit, we have a separate procurement that runs through June of this year for the delivery of mental healthcare services at that location.
Sen Elliott: So those contracts then will go away, and everything that– we’ll have even more folded into the bundle contract?
Graves (DOC): Yes, ma’am.
Sen Elliott: Is there any– I don’t know of any, but I need to ask so I know what I’m talking about here– is there anybody in this state that could possibly qualify for that contract, for the bundle contract? That would necessarily have to be an outside contract.
Graves (DOC): I can’t speak to who would be eligible or ineligible, ma’am.
Sen Elliott: Okay. Then is the RFP on your website? Because I could look at it, I think, and figure it out myself.
Graves (DOC): It’s posted on OSP’s website.
Sen Elliott: Okay. And so for the– you said you’ve had roughly, what, seven responses? Or you anticipate seven companies–
Graves (DOC): Seven have submitted expressions of interest to the Office of State procurement.
Sen Elliott: And those are the ones who were in for a required visit or whatever, however you stated that.
Graves (DOC): Yes, ma’am.
Sen Elliott: Do you have a notion then, based on what we spend now on mental health, what the savings might be, or just even the cost might be, but what the savings might be as a result of folding all of the mental health into the bundle contract?
Graves (DOC): Not at this time. Right now, we’re spending at East Arkansas, which is a larger unit and has more dedicated FTEs, they have 13 FTEs at East Arkansas dedicated to mental healthcare. That contract is $1.3 million a year. But one of the things we found when we solicited proposals for that procurement, we found that our mental healthcare positions were paying, at best, 40% below market rate, which is understandable when you consider the challenges that we have historically had with recruiting and retaining licensed mental health staff.
Sen Elliott: So would it be fair to say that there’s a possibility– because I know that we’re going to have roughly 100– we’re going to have this $100 million contract, and none of that money, then, if we’re folding mental health into this too, it’s very possible none of that money will end up staying in our state.
Graves (DOC): Well, no, ma’am, because the vendor we currently have and previous vendors, they’re not flying in 200-300 staff. Their payroll is made up of Arkansans. There have been instances in the past where their subcontractors have been Arkansans, their medical device suppliers have been Arkansans. So, no, ma’am, I would not agree that this money is completely leaving the state, because it’s not.
Sen Elliott: Well, would you just share with me then who the subcontractors are with the– is it Wellpath who–
Graves (DOC): Our current vendor is Wellpath.
Sen Elliott: Okay. Would you just share with me then who the subcontractors are with them in our state right now?
Graves (DOC): I will ask. I can’t speak to who they have as a sub. I’m aware of previous vendors that have had Arkansas subs, but I can’t speak to who Wellpath has. So I don’t want you to assume that I’m saying that our current vendor has Arkansas subs, because that is not what I was alluding to. But I will reach out to Wellpath and ask that information as to if they can provide that, without creating competitive advantage issues, about where they’re spending their subcontractor resources.
Sen Elliott: So they can hold that a secret from us, who their subcontractors are?
Graves (DOC): I can’t speak for them, but I will ask. And if that is something that can be released, I will provide that to staff.
Sen Elliott: And the final question then, because the RFP is different for the correction system from everybody. You do your own release and all that. And who makes that final decision about who gets chosen for the contract?
Graves (DOC): In the past, the department administered its own RFP. With this procurement, OSP is administering the RFP. They’re the ones that are receiving bids and doing all the legwork. In terms of who makes the final selection, at the end of– following the evaluation process, I’ll be briefed by the evaluation committee, which is comprised of staff within the department. And then I will make a recommendation to the Board of Corrections, who will make the determination as to if they will proceed with that procurement process with that vendor.
Sen Elliott: So that described to me was an in-house thing that you’re doing.
Graves (DOC): Oh, no. Once the Board of Correction reviews it, then just like any other contract, it has to–
Sen Elliott: Just come to review. Yeah, yeah.
Graves (DOC): –come over to legislature for review. And in this case, there will have to be an allocation of funds likely to go along with that contract.
Sen Elliott: And my final question here is just a process question, because we’ve been going through a lot of issues here on budget, and especially looking at a lot of personnel issues and some other issues, that we’re not going to make these big decisions until we have a new governor, and they’re going to have input. By your timeline– I think you said February, so maybe a decision will be made, and by then we will have a new governor already in office. Is there something that prevents us from extending the contract so that we could lend the same kind of, I guess, courtesy to an incoming governor, so that we don’t have to carry this out at this point?
Graves (DOC): I expect that as part of our transition process within the department that this will be a point of conversation. I don’t want to have any member believe that the first conversation that we have with the next administration about this procurement is going to be January, because that’s not going to be the case. Our timeline is– the current procurement ends June 30, so we have to have a contract in place. And from talking to staff involved in previous procurements, it’s about a 60-day lead time if there would be a transition between vendors. So we need to have a contract in place by, I would say, May at the latest. And otherwise we would be in a position of having to, for a period of time, do an emergency procurement extension with our current vendor so we don’t have an interruption of services.
Sen Elliott: Okay. So if the next administration is going to have something–
Sen Rice: Senator Elliott, I’m going to have to rotate in a minute.
Sen Elliott: Okay, I can wait. Go ahead, Mr. Chair.
Sen Rice: I’ve got Senator Hester and Senator Chesterfield.
Inmate communications (phone, etc.)
Sen Hester: Thank you, Director Graves. I recently toured our Benton County Jail, and I spent some time in there and saw how important the ability for inmates to communicate with family– that has to play some sort of a role in the mental health as well, just being able to talk to their kids or their spouse or family or whatever. When you guys are doing the– I don’t know if that’s called commissary, communication, whatever that is, do you take into account what that costs the families or inmates? Is that a bigger part of it? Do you make money off that, or is that just a pass-through? How is that process?
Graves (DOC): We make a small commission off of telephone. We do not make a commission in the Division of Correction off of video visitation. And actually that contract runs through March, April of 2023. So we will have a RFQ for inmate communications coming out late this year or early January to address that piece. But while we make a small commission, it is not– we’ve actually reduced costs throughout this procurement.
Sen Hester: Good. Do inmates have unlimited opportunity to do that, or is it so much per week?
Payne (DOC): Yes, they can schedule that at any time during the week. They can schedule video visitation. They could also utilize the phone as long as no one else is using the phone. They don’t have their own personal phone, but as long as no one else is on the phone, they could make calls anytime they want during the week.
Sen Hester: Twice a day they could call home.
Payne (DOC): Some call home 10 times a day.
Sen Hester: Okay. All right, thank you.
Payne (DOC): Yes, sir.
Sen Rice: Senator Chesterfield, you’re recognized.
Sen Chesterfield: I move executive rec.
Sen Rice: I have a motion and a second for executive rec. All in favor, aye. Opposed? Thank you, gentlemen, for the Department of Correction budget. And now for the Division of Correction. Mr. Coleman, you are recognized again.
Division of Correction
Coleman (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. We’ll be looking at the Division of Correction division summary, and let’s look at it on page 222 of your manuals. So start with some totals. The agency request for fiscal year 2024 is just over $400 million. Fiscal year 2025 is just over $404 million. We have five total appropriations with change levels, and the first one is on page 230, and that’s the Inmate Care and Custody appropriation. So funds for Inmate Care and Custody are made up mostly of general revenue, but there are some cash and special revenues in the Inmate Care and Custody fund account. And that is so the agency can account for population growth and adjust to it as needed. The first change levels to note here are salaries and personal services matching. So there’s a couple of things to unpack with this. Firstly, there is a line item for holiday compensation, $5.5 million. You’ll notice it at the bottom of the table there. And that’s been moved to the regular salaries line item. The second thing to unpack with this is there’s 59 positions transferred to Division of Community Corrections, and that’s to help with the White River Correctional Center in Batesville. Secondly, there’s an increase in operating expenses of $3.5 million in fiscal year 2024 and $5.4 million in fiscal year 2025. These are due to increased costs in maintenance and operations due to inflation, along with reallocation to shared services in both years. The agency is also requesting an increase in capital outlay in both years of the biennium. The $1.3 million request for fiscal year 2024 and $749,000 request for fiscal year 2025 are for purchase of equipment throughout the Division of Corrections. The executive recommendation provides for this request and appropriation only. And the next change level is on page 234, and this is the prison industry appropriation. This is funded through special revenue generated by sale of products to public agencies and nonprofits.
Coleman (BLR): Apart from salary and match adjustments, the prison industry appropriation has two change levels, a $1 million increase in both years of the biennium for cost of materials, such as wood and steel, and capital outlay increases of $752,000 in fiscal year 2024 and $629,000 in fiscal year 2025. And that’s to replace aging equipment. Executive rec provides for this agency request. On page 236 we have the farm operations appropriation. Including salary and match adjustments here, there are three total change levels in this appropriation. Operating expenses increases of $1 million for each fiscal year due to rising costs of fertilizer, seeds, and production costs. The agency is also requesting a capital outlay increase of $900,000 in fiscal year 2024 and $850,000 in fiscal year 2025, and that’s to replace equipment that was previously sold at auction. Executive recommendation provides for this agency request. The fourth change level is inmate welfare treasury cash, and that’s located on page 238 of your manuals. So this provides inmates with the ability to purchase hygiene products, paper and stamps, and snacks and things like that. The appropriation has three total change levels. Firstly, salary and match exceed 23 authorized due to rate adjustments. The agency is also requesting $1 million each year of the biennium to purchase more resale items for inmates. The request also includes capital outlay increases of $1.75 million for fiscal year 2024 and $1 million for fiscal year 2025, and that is for laundry and kitchen equipment. And the final change level on page 240 is non-tax revenue receipts. So this is used for inmate assistance, security equipment, and general operations, and is funded with proceeds from the telephone service provider for inmates. The agency is simply requesting a reallocation of $260,000 in operating expenses to shared services for both years of the biennium. And Mr. Chair, that concludes the Division of Correction change levels.
Sen Rice: Thank you, Mr. Coleman. Senator Hammer, you have a question? You’re recognized.
Sen Hammer: Thank you, Mr. Chair. It could be for the agency. The subject is on the workforce. We’ve had some conversations about the workforce. It’s on page 223. There’s 500 inmates who participate in the work release program. First of all, is there any opportunities to expand that number in order to get folks out into the workforce other than what we’re doing right now?
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir. The Board of Corrections has recently approved a planned expansion of 50 beds at our Mississippi County facility to take advantage of the growth in the industrial market in that part of the state.
Sen Hammer: Okay. The cost of that expansion is what?
Graves (DOC): $2.5 million. That’s building only. We’ll be able to use existing staffing to man that additional beds.
Sen Hammer: Okay, and then they’re paying $17 a day. When’s the last time we raised that rate? Because if they’re the beneficiaries of minimum wage increase or other increases that are offered, do we need to look at raising that 17 per day to keep up with additional costs and have them help pay a bigger portion?
Graves (DOC): We just had that conversation on Monday, and no one on our leadership team remembers when it was not $17 a day.
Sen Hammer: Would that require legislative action or is that something you do within the department?
Graves (DOC): That authority to set that rate is given in statute to the Board of Corrections.
Sen Hammer: Okay. So I wish you would look at that and give a report back, if you don’t mind.
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir.
Sen Hammer: And then the other thing is they get to keep a portion of that. I’m hearing reoccurring stories not often that some of the inmates are able to leave with a large sum of money. And I’ve also heard stories about 30 days later, that money is gone. Constitutionally, is there anything we can do that could help slow down their access to that money until they have a chance to adapt back out into the free world so as not to be taken advantage if they walk out there with a large sum of money?
Graves (DOC): We only have authority to hold on to their trust funds while they’re in the custody of the Division of Correction. Once they leave the custody, then we have to turn their funds over to them. One of the things that– and we are aware of that issue. So many of our work release programs have volunteers that come in to specifically address issues related to financial literacy. Because for many of them, that is the most amount of money that they have ever had in their lives, either at all or legally. So that is a concern of ours. And we’re constantly working to engage communities of care that have interests in coming in and providing that financial literacy education.
Sen Hammer: Okay, we’ll have some offline conversation. Mr. Chair, I would like to ask about farming operations, but I’ll going on the bottom of the queue. Thank you.
Sen Rice: Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized.
Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Back over here to the right. I’m going to ask about some fund balances. So you’ve got fund balance in work release cash, fund balance in non-tax revenue receipts, and fund balance in medical monetary sanctions. So what are we going to do with those fund balances, and how can they be used?
Graves (DOC): Yes, so that’s that is something that we have been working on internally. For instance, in work release, the expansion that I just discussed with Senator Hammer is being funded entirely out of the fund balance out of that work release cash. So what you see in front of you, we have actually authorized $3 million toward that project just in the off chance that cost of materials and construction increase before we’re able to start turning dirt on that. Same thing with our non–
Rep Cavenaugh: That would leave you $6 million. Even if you took three out, that leaves you $6 million in work release cash.
Graves (DOC): Yes, ma’am. We have, additionally, coming out of those funds another, I’m looking, at $3 million in obligated projects that are not reflected in these numbers. I believe these are run as of June 30. So there’s another $3 million in projects that we have authorized internally that are not reflected in the reports that you have.
Rep Cavenaugh: What type of projects?
Graves (DOC): These are security equipment, emergency services equipment, and miscellaneous capital equipment purchases.
Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. And have you asked for appropriations for those in another location?
Graves (DOC): Not at this time. If we do not have sufficient appropriations in that request, it would, depending on the timing, either come through JBC or ALC Peer, but we have those projects obligated and are proceeding at various phases. And what were those other funds you were-
Rep Cavenaugh: Non-tax revenue receipts, which is page 240. And then medical monetary, which is 244.
Graves (DOC): Yes, ma’am. We have currently in that fund $878,000 in commitments, and additional– in miscellaneous commitments, excuse me– additionally, we have a planned emergency power project, fancy name for generators, at $300,000, and then miscellaneous IT and security equipment projects at $2.5 million obligated against those funds that are not reflected in the report you have in front of you.
Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. And are there no stipulations on how these can be used? They can be used for whenever you need to use them? You can use them throughout–
Graves (DOC): We have some funds, for instance, inmate welfare is a restricted fund that has to be used for the sole benefit of the inmate population. All of these funds require approval of the Board of Corrections before they can be expensed. I believe you also asked for medical sanctions? Is that the other one?
Rep Cavenaugh: Yes.
Graves (DOC): That one is a restricted fund also. Any expenditures out of that fund have to demonstrate to the board that they improve the health of the inmate population. We currently have $167,000 in obligations against that fund. That fund is also used to fund our third-party medical auditor. While we have the utmost faith in our vendor in terms of the delivery of services, we have an outside entity that comes in and on a by contract quarterly basis. And then if there’s an issue that the board has concerns about, I’ve got concerns about, or Director Payne has concerns about, we will assign that to that medical auditor to audit that delivery of care to make sure that it is appropriate for the situation at hand. And that auditor is paid entirely out of these sanction funds.
Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. And could this fund be used to help with the mental health issues that we’re experiencing?
Graves (DOC): Yes, and we actually– I’m sorry. I was going to say that the contract we had East Arkansas is being paid out of this fund, but it’s actually not. It’s being paid out of inmate welfare.
Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. All right. Thank you.
Sen Rice: Thank you. Representative Evans, you’re recognized.
Rep Evans: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Secretary Graves, my questions are regarding farm operations. The analysis on page 235 shows that you have approximately 20,000 acres that is devoted to cash crops, vegetables, hay production, and livestock. Of that 20,000 acres, how much of that is currently farmed by the Department of Corrections versus leased out to area farmers or large farming operations?
Graves (DOC): We do not lease any acreage out. All of our land is worked by the department.
Rep Evans: Okay. And it also states that production and sales, the marketable field crops, and livestock, what is the amount of income that is generally produced from the farming operation from the sales of the crops and livestock?
Graves (DOC): I don’t have the balance sheet in front of me. The bottom line, over the last two years, we’ve seen about $3 million in net profit from our AG Division. But how much of that is tied directly to row crops, I’d have to follow back up and get that number to staff.
Rep Evans: Okay. So we’re providing useful and meaningful work for the inmates. It says the program provides jobs for approximately 300 inmates. Is there compensation that’s tied to that?
Graves (DOC): So that number is actually what we consider to be skilled farm jobs. We have far more than that that actually work jobs. We do not compensate monetarily inmates in the Department of Correction except for those that are placed in a work release program or in our correctional industries division through what is called a PIE project, which is an acronym.
Rep Evans: So basically these 300 inmates, for a lack of better words, that’s free labor?
Graves (DOC): Well, and this is not me wordsmithing. This is what I generally believe in. While we do not provide monetary compensation, we do teach the dignity of work. For many of them, they have not learned previously. And one of the things we’ve started over the last year is we actually have, through our career technical education program, we now have an agricultural technology certification program. So inmates assigned to skilled jobs in the farm can also get a certificate of proficiency that if they choose to continue working in the agricultural industry, they have a demonstrated mastery of skills that from what we’ve been told by the industry that any farmer, whether it’s commercial or private, would be quick to snap up.
Rep Evans: Yes, certainly I would think that there would be a definite intangible value to preparing them with skills, technical training to enter back into the workforce. So turning the page over to 236, looking at the farm operation salary lines, the 63 positions authorized for 2022-2023, $2.87 million. That’s an average of about $46,000. Who are those employees?
Graves (DOC): Those are all state employees. Those are the administrative staff for the farm division and also the supervisory staff that manage the crews, clerical staff, farm security.
Rep Evans: Farm managers and so forth that are state employees?
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir.
Rep Evans: Okay. And then last question. Thank you, Mr. Chair, for your leniency, is looking into 2023-2024, based upon your appropriation request, we’re reducing that by 10 positions but keeping the line item flat at 2.87 I’m assuming that the reduction of those 10 positions but keeping the same amount, that raises that average to 54. That’s just to include raises, matching benefits, and so forth for those employees?
Graves (DOC): So the reduction of the positions is through the– we took the security positions that were assigned to the AG Division, and though they have been transferred to the unit of assignment wherever that program is located, while the salary line item is the same, obviously, everyone is aware we have the 2% cost of living adjustment last year, merit increases. So while the staffing number might have been reduced, there was increases in staffing costs that offset it and justify the need for keeping that line item flat.
Rep Evans: Yeah. Due to the increases from the state, we’re going from 45.5 to 54.1, and that holds that line flat.
Graves (DOC): Yep.
Rep Evans: All right. Thank you for answering those questions.
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir.
Rep Evans: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Sen Rice: Thank you, Representative Evans. Representative Wooten, you’re recognized.
Rep Wooten: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Back on the farm operations on page 236, I have several questions. First of all, on the M&R sales, $538,000, what was that for? And how was that handled?
Graves (DOC): That was scrap equipment that was put out for disposition through auction.
Rep Wooten: All right. In your cattle operation, are you still selling your calf crop at out of state sale barns?
Graves (DOC): PAYNE<<<>>>Representative Wooten, we sell the cattle to where we can get the best price. So we have sold out of state. Oklahoma buys some but we sell in Arkansas as well.
Rep Wooten: And how is that controlled? When you run a calf through a sale in Oklahoma, who sees that you get the receipts back?
Payne (DOC): Our budget department.
Rep Wooten: Who’s in charge of making sure that– who’s in charge of making sure that the calves that went over there on the number that we sold that that’s the money you got back? Does that internal audit ever look at that or?
Payne (DOC): Yes, sir. Internal audit does look at that.
Sen Rice: Push your button, if you will.
Graves (DOC): And we actually don’t release the cattle to the buyer until we receive the funds.
Rep Wooten: Until you receive the funds. Okay. Okay. Now on the personnel side, I’m having a little bit of trouble, and Representative Evans touched on it. Where are those 10 positions going that you’re reducing it down? You had 63 authorized. You only had 43. Now you’re asking for 53. So are you relinquishing those 10 positions or you’re moving them somewhere else in the department?
Graves (DOC): No, sir. And there’s actually a footnote at the bottom of page 2. Variance in number of positions in authorizing agency’s request is due to single salary section and appropriation act. So if you look at the appropriation for the Division of Correction, you just see one salary section for that division. So those positions are in that same salary section. Instead of being listed on this page, they’re part of the X number of thousand positions that are in the inmate care and custody fund page where the majority of our positions in the Division of Correction are paid out of.
Rep Wooten: Okay, here’s where I’m confused. On the salary line item, you show a budget of $2.3 million, roughly, for 49 positions. Under actual, you show 43 positions at $133,000. So that’s only $3,000 a position.
Graves (DOC): So in FY 2022, the majority of positions in the farm division– every year we sit down, usually in Q4, and we determine, “Do the farm positions need to stay in general revenue? Where they’re funded? Or do we need to transfer them to the farm fund to be paid out of?” And–
Rep Wooten: So wait a minute. Say that again?
Graves (DOC): All of our positions are general revenue funds in the Division of Correction. At the end of each fiscal year, we sit down internally and we decide whether or not we’re going to leave those fund– we make the accounting decision basically, are we going to leave those funds paid out of general revenue, or do we pay them out of farm funds? Last fiscal year, we made the determination instead of paying them out of farm funds to pay them out of general revenue.
Rep Wooten: So you paid them– so you paid them out of farm revenue? So in other words–
Graves (DOC): No, sir.
Rep Wooten: –you look at–
Graves (DOC): No, sir.
Rep Wooten: Okay.
Graves (DOC): In the last fiscal year, we paid farm positions out of general revenue, which is why in the farm fund, you only see $133,000 in salary expenditures–
Rep Wooten: You paid–
Graves (DOC): –because the remaining $2 million and some change was paid out of general revenue funding.
Rep Wooten: Okay. So we’re not making a million dollar profit down there in the farming operation with the way we can move the salaries around because the 43 positions should have cost $1.9 million. Now somewhere that was paid, right?
Graves (DOC): Out of general revenue funds.
Rep Wooten: It’s general revenue. So tell me what is the $8.6 million special revenue under funding sources? What is that? Where does that come from?
Graves (DOC): That is the row crop income.
Rep Wooten: Is that row crop income?
Graves (DOC): Yeah. Now this is just the appropriation. Oh, I’m sorry. That 8.6, yes, sir, is the row crop. That’s the row crop revenue.
Rep Wooten: Okay. So you get $8.6, but then you’re showing $13 million.
Graves (DOC): Representative, I actually need to clarify what I just said. ‘llI probably let my CFO start answering because he’s smarter than me. But the $8.6 million is all revenue that went to the farm. That’s row crop, that’s cattle–
Rep Wooten: That’s everything?
Graves (DOC): Yeah. Yes. That’s everything.
Rep Wooten: Okay. I figured it. Okay. But are you anticipating a gain of $4 million or $5 million because you’re showing income for the next biennium at $13 million?
Graves (DOC): And this is just appropriation. We’re hopeful. Over the last year, we’ve invested over a million dollars into precision leveling, also, a multisite irrigation project to–
Rep Wooten: Precision leveling of the fields?
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir. And also a multisite irrigation project to increase the yields out of our lands.
Rep Wooten: And in that leveling and all that field use and irrigation, do you take into consideration all your costs, your fuel costs and that type of thing out there to keep those fields flooded with rice and soybeans and corn? Is that in the operating expenses?
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir.
Rep Wooten: Okay, so everything is covered. But did you say that we made a million dollars last year?
Graves (DOC): Last year’s revenues were $3.1 million.
Rep Wooten: What?
Graves (DOC): $3.1 million.
Rep Wooten: $3.1 million.
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir.
Rep Wooten: Well, now when you say revenue, are you saying that was the profit in?
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir. Profit.
Rep Wooten: That was the profit that you made?
Graves (DOC): $3.1 million last fiscal year.
Rep Wooten: Okay. All right. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Sen Rice: Thank you. Senator Hammer, you’re recognized.
Sen Hammer: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Picking up on that subject, when you say we had $3.1 net, it seems like I remember a few years ago, you all were sitting here losing money. Am I remembering that right?
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir. You do.
Sen Hammer: You got a new farm manager, I guess. I’m not sure. Is he still down there? The one who was–
Graves (DOC): We do not. We made some changes in operations in terms of equipment utilization, modernized some of our procurement processes–
Sen Hammer: It just got more efficient.
Graves (DOC): –seed science, got smarter. Also, one of the things that has really helped us is we’re drawing down from the revenue stabilization fund loan that we have access to. Instead of, as we did in previous years, which was drawn down the full amount, we’re drawing as we need those funds. So if we don’t need the full $5.6 that we’re entitled to, we don’t draw down the full $5.6.
Sen Hammer: Okay. And that was going to be my question. So if you netted $3.1 million, what you draw down off of the general revenue– because you’re one of three agencies, if I remember right, that get a cut off the top– you only draw down what you need. You’re not getting that set amount of percentage off of the general revenue, right?
Graves (DOC): Yes. So last year, we drew down $4.4. And we have authority in statute to be given dollar for dollar based on inmate consumption once that is certified by your legislative audit division.
Sen Hammer: Okay. One other quick question. I want to go back to the workforce, if you will. How many dollars are taken in at that $17 a day rate? How much is that? And where does this show up in any of the numbers we’ve gotten so we know how much that equates to? What page? Or do you know where that is? 223?
Graves (DOC): Senator Hammer, if we could add that to the list of questions we’ll get back with staff on.
Sen Hammer: Okay. If you would, I’d like to know if there’s 500 inmates working with–
Graves (DOC): $3.3 million, I’m being told.
Sen Hammer: $3.3 million is–
Graves (DOC): Yeah. Yeah. If you’re looking on page 234– I’m sorry. Not 234. Page 224. It’s that cash fund line item under funding sources, $3.312 million.
Sen Hammer: Okay, then if you’re looking at raising it, you got a $2.5 million request. Do you need to look at raising that if you’re looking at raising it $17 a day up to what you’re thinking?
Graves (DOC): That is appropriation only. So if we do have a need to expend more than that 2.5, then we would just make a supplemental appropriation request.
Sen Hammer: Okay. And–
Graves (DOC): I feel comfortable leaving it where it is right now.
Sen Hammer: All right. And when you get that money in, do you have the discretion to put it wherever you need to put it within your budget to be able to–?
Graves (DOC): No, sir. Work release revenue stays in the work release fund, and then any expenditures are done out of that fund. We can’t move work release money from here and put it in another bucket.
Sen Hammer: All right. What’s the cash fund balance in there then? What’s the number so I’m looking at the right number?
Graves (DOC): The current balance before the commitments I rattled off to Representative Cavenaugh is $8.7 million.
Sen Hammer: That’s what you’ve got sitting in there?
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir.
Sen Hammer: Well, let me throw this at you. Sitting down there in Haskell, which is not in my district but it’s in my neighborhood, we got building 70. We’ve had that discussion before.
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir.
Sen Hammer: Is there any reason you couldn’t go in there, and if you do raise that daily rate, access those funds in order to repurpose building 70 to make it a more efficient model down there for workforce services and maybe expand that population down there, too?
Graves (DOC): Given the age of that building, there are some other issues–
Sen Hammer: Structural issues.
Graves (DOC): –that needed to be resolved besides just new paint. We have had that conversation recently as to whether or not that move makes sense for us. It’s not completely off the table, but that would be a fairly significant project beyond just cosmetic issues.
Sen Hammer: Okay. All right, we’ll continue the conversation. But right now, you got $8 million something in there that’s earmarked for workforce, whatever?
Graves (DOC): Before commitments. Yes, sir.
Sen Hammer: And your commitments are $2 million something?
Graves (DOC): We have about $5-ish million in commitments.
Sen Hammer: Okay. All right. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Sen Rice: Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized.
Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. My question is also dealing with 234 and 236. It’s the 42 and the 130,000 in salaries. And I understand your explanation that you kept the number, but you actually paid them out of another line item, another place. So did you have appropriations in both of those to cover those salaries?
Graves (DOC): Yes, ma’am. What happened last year is we received about $7 million in COVID-related salary reimbursements from both the state and FEMA. So there wasn’t a need, as in past years, to pay those salaries out of special revenue funds, either in prison industry or in our farm fund.
Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. So for this ask, have you got them in both appropriations?
Graves (DOC): Yes. All of our positions have an appropriation in general revenue. There is, in the farm fund, in the prison industry fund, and also in inmate welfare because we have authority to pay commissary positions out of inmate welfare, there are separate salary line items. But what I call the default line item is in general revenue.
Graves (DOC): Okay. But you’ve got appropriation in all three of– the special revenue and general revenue to pay those?
Graves (DOC): Yes.
Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. Thank you.
Sen Rice: Thank you. Representative Springer, you’re recognized.
Rep Springer: Good morning. Thank you, Mr. Chair. Is it proper for a motion at this time? Motion?
Sen Rice: If you hold that. I’ve got one more question. I’ll be right back to you. Representative Evans, you got a question?
Rep Evans: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Secretary, I’m going to ask the question again. I just want to make sure I’m asking it the right way. Not questioning how you answered, I just want to make sure I’m asking the proper question. Of the 20,000 acres that is under the control of the Department of Corrections for farm operations, all 20,000 of those acres are farmed by the Department Corrections and not by anyone else outside of the department?
Graves (DOC): Correct.
Rep Evans: Any of that land– after crop season is over, is any of that land leased out for any type of commercial hunting or private use?
Graves (DOC): No, sir.
Rep Evans: Okay. And do you have any data– and you don’t have to give it to me today; it would just be interesting to look at– of the analysis between if you didn’t have the income from the farm operation and for the food production that it provides to the department, what the comparative cost would be if you had to go out and purchase that? Do you ever look at those numbers?
Graves (DOC): We do. I actually had that conversation with my CFO on the way over here this morning because I expected this question to come up. That’s something where we are going to look at and we can get back to that.
Rep Evans: I think the farm provides– I think it’s a tremendous asset to the state. There are so many intangible benefits that come from it, and I’m proud of the work that they do and want to make sure that we continue to do that. And if there’s any way to build that up or expand on it, I think we need to certainly look at that. Thank you, sir.
Graves (DOC): Thank you for that.
Sen Rice: Senator Chesterfield did you have something before Representative Springer’s motion?
Sen Chesterfield: Is she making a motion?
Sen Rice: She is. Thank you. Representative Springer, you’re recognized.
Rep Springer: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I move for executive rec.
Sen Rice: I have a motion and a second. Any discussion on the motion? If not, all in favor, aye. Opposed? Thank you.
Rep Springer: Thank you, all. Good explanations.
Sen Rice: Members, we are now at Community Correction. Mr. Coleman, if you’re still with us, you’re recognized.
Coleman (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. We’ll start out with Community Correction Division summary on page 246. The agency request total is just under $134 million for fiscal year 2024 and just over $135 for fiscal year 2025. So we have three appropriations with change levels in the Division of Community Correction, the first one being on page 248, and that’s the Residents Cash Treasury. This appropriation is used for various projects to benefit all residents of community correction facilities. It’s funded through resident purchase of commissary supplies and income from the telephone contract. So appropriation is fiscal year 2023 authorized with the exception of a discontinuation of $800,000 in capital outlay appropriation. Executive recommendation provides for these changes.
Coleman (BLR): The next appropriation change level we have is on page 250. It’s community correction’s special appropriation. This is used to support probation and parole services and special programs for substance abuse and mental health treatment. The first change level here is a reallocation of roughly $650,000 to shared services for both years of the biennium for IT and training expenses. Our second change level here is a decrease in capital outlay appropriation of $850,000 for fiscal year 2024. The remaining $361,000 in that line item will be used to purchase vehicles for the intensive supervision program and new drug court positions. The agency is also requesting a reallocation of $200,000 from the community correction program line item to the transitional housing line item to align with expenditure needs. Executive rec provides for those changes as well.
Coleman (BLR): And the final change level in community correction is on page 253. And this is community correction’s state appropriation. So this is community correction’s general operations budget. Funding is primarily general revenue, but they also receive some cash funds from building rental at the Texarkana unit. The agency requests the following changes to salary and match due to the following: There’s 10 positions needed for drug courts, restoration of 14 growth pool positions and one federal grant position, and the transfer of 59 positions from the Division of Correction to support the White River Correctional Center in Batesville. The agency also is requesting operating expenses increase in fiscal year 2024 of $2.6 million and $3.2 million in fiscal year 2025. This is for new and existing drug courts, the White River Correctional Center and various institutional improvements along with inflationary costs. The addition of drug courts and the White River Correctional Center also called for an increase in conference and travel of just over $30,000 for both years of the biennium. Next, the agency is requesting an increase in professional fees of $2,500 for service contracts for the drug courts.
Coleman (BLR): Capital outlay has been decreased from $500,000 to $125,000 in fiscal year 2024 and to $90,000 in fiscal year 2025. This appropriation will be used to cover the purchase of kitchen and laundry equipment for the White River Correctional Facility. Lastly, the agency is requesting a $2 million increase in both years of the biennium and the re-entry line item due to the increase in the cost of goods and services. The executive recommendation provides for the agency request and appropriation only, with the exception of the additional 10 drug court positions. Mr. Chairman, that concludes the change levels for community correction.
Sen Rice: Thank you, Mr. Coleman. Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized.
Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. My question is going to be on page 250, and I’m really just kind of curious on what the community correction programs are because we’re asking for $6 million in it, but we only spent $1.8. So I’m curious what that is.
Graves (DOC): Representative Cavenaugh, if we could, we’ll add that to the follow-up list because I don’t think we have a for sure answer for you right now.
Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. And I’m also going to want to ask about that fund balance because it’s large also. It’s $15.3 million.
Graves (DOC): So that fund is where all of our supervision fees go into that offenders on community supervision are assessed. We have, again, about currently $2.1 million in commitment toward that fund, another $1.2 million in a roof project, and then another $4 million in a miscellaneous transfer to the division’s operating fund. One of the challenges that community correction has had over the years is historically when we– especially with specialty courts, we’ll be given the specialty court positions through one-time funding. And we have in past administrations not consistently been given the funding ongoing. So we’ve had to assume those costs internally. So every year, in order to meet payroll and operations requirements for the division, we have to transfer money out of our supervision fees fund, which is this account, into our regular operating fund to meet salaries and other operating costs. So there’s about $4 million of that. And then Director Bradshaw and I are working through about another million or so of additional projects predominantly related to safety and emergency services equipment for staff that will also come out of this fund.
Bradshaw (DOC): And if I may, Representative Cavenaugh, I took a look at that and basically did a breakdown of what it actually is at this very moment in time. And right now, it’s listed as $10 million. But when you add in all the commitments that are out there that haven’t been paid for yet, it’s actually $2.7 right now.
Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. So the commitment we’re doing– and I’m going to speak about this because this is community correction. And we’ve got community correction programs, which I’d like to know. But are we using this money to really help with repeat offenders so they don’t keep coming back? Because I would think if they’re paying the fees for supervision, then we should be providing them some sort of help into staying out back in, so that we’re not having repeat offenders. If we’ve got a big balance like that and we’re saying we got community programs and we’re asking for $6 million but we’re only spending $1.8. I mean, they’re paying the fees. It’s kind of like if I’m buying a fishing license but they’re paying the fees. And I mean, we talk about this all the time about how we have to change the cycle of repeat offenders. It looks like this would be a great opportunity where we could set up some programs to help those people so that they would not be repeat offenders.
Graves (DOC): This is how we operate the division that supervises, that provides that treatment. Most states do not provide in-house treatment to offenders on supervision. We’re one of the states that does, and we pay for that in-house treatment, both staff and through curricula, through this fund. Most recently, we actually adopted a new treatment model, just under $100,000 in new curriculum material that the Board of Corrections recently approved that was paid out of these monies. So yes, I’m not going to sit here and mislead you. Yes, this in large part does go to operations costs to provide supervision, provide treatment staff, but there are direct services that are also paid out of these funds.
Rep Cavenaugh: Well, if you’re going to be asking for an appropriation of $6.2 million for community correction programs, I’d like to see programs used to help these people because that’s what we need. We have to find a way to make a difference. And if we’ve got a fund balance and I know we need to spend it on other things– but this is a huge issue.
Graves (DOC): I agree. And one of the things we talked about earlier was our efforts to validate our risk assessment, too, so we can become a state that focuses more on risk and needs-based supervision. That is long term what our priority is, both at my level and Director Bradshaw’s level but also with our board. We’ve just got a couple more pieces we’ve got to get through before we can get there. But we hear you and 100% agree with you.
Rep Cavenaugh: Can we not use this for halfway house for transitional housing?
Graves (DOC): We do.
Rep Cavenaugh: You already have a line item. You have a big fund balance. We need more of those.
Graves (DOC): We do. And we’re constantly working in our transitional housing division to cultivate those. You have–unfortunately, not every area is receptive to having that kind of program in their community.
Rep Cavenaugh: I know. Thank you.
Sen Rice: Thank you. And members, I’ll stay here as long as anybody else will. But we’ll probably finish up by 12:00. We do have sentencing commission and parole board after this. Representative Wooten, you’re recognized.
Rep Wooten: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I won’t take long. The personnel, is this where your parole officers– they’re located in here?
Graves (DOC): Yes.
Rep Wooten: Okay. Your average salary is $38,000.
Bradshaw (DOC): It’s $39 now.
Rep Wooten: Well, $39,000 for parole officer. What kind of workload are they carrying? What’s their current number?
Bradshaw (DOC): Current workload is, fully staffed, which is really never the case– you’re always having turnover– but it’s 84 to 1. With the vacancies we have right now, it’s 88, 89 to 1.
Rep Wooten: Okay. But that’s down. It was in the 90s the last time I asked. What’s the national average? What’s the national average? Do you know?
Bradshaw (DOC): Somewhere in the 70s.
Rep Wooten: Okay. One more. One of these, you had $744,000 in shared services. It showed nothing in this biennium. Is that an IT training? Is that what–
Graves (DOC): What page you on, sir?
Rep Wooten: I think it’s on 250, I believe.
Graves (DOC): 250?
Rep Wooten: It was in shared services, $744,000.
Graves (DOC): Yes. We talked about previously where we looked at additional areas to transfer up. This is coming out of special revenue. It’s likely additional IT and potentially professional services contracts. But majority of this going to be IT.
Rep Wooten: So that’s what that’s for?
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir.
Rep Wooten: But you didn’t have any of that in this biennium.
Graves (DOC): Yes.
Rep Wooten: Is it new money you’re requesting, or?
Graves (DOC): No new money. It’s not just the appropriation.
Rep Wooten: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen Rice: Thank you. Representative Tosh, you’re recognized.
Rep Tosh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Following up on Representative Wooten. I know, in 2017, I was on the Criminal Justice Task Force, and we authorized 30 new positions for probation officers. And the recommendation for that was at that time, the workload was, I think, about 120 individuals that were reporting to a parole officer. And the goal there was to reduce that to around 50. But I just heard testimony that it’s still somewhere around 80. Are those 30 positions filled? Is that in this capital outlays and I’m just missing it? Or have we filled those 30 positions? And I guess my question would be, if we have, why is that still up in the 80s and not in the 50s where we had targeted in 2017?
Graves (DOC): So Representative Tosh, one of the things that the division has done to their credit is, when we look at our caseload, that’s a mix of high, medium, and low-risk offenders for most officers except for our ISP officers who all they have is high-risk offenders. So when we look at those risk levels, we have a point-based system. So in effect, 60 high-risk offenders are the equivalent of 120 low-risk offenders because of the amount of effort it takes into supervising those cases. So when you look at that 84 to 1, fully staffed– right now, we’re at 88, 89 to 1 based on what we have filled. Those aren’t– it’s not the same amount of work being dedicated to each offender. So while it is not where we want it to be, it is a far more manageable level than where we’ve been in past years. But there is obviously room for continued progress.
Rep Tosh: Okay, thank you.
Graves (DOC): Yes, sir.
Sen Rice: Thank you. Senator Chesterfield.
Sen Chesterfield: Executive rec.
Sen Rice: Have exec rec motion by Senator Chesterfield and a second. All in favor, Aye. Opposed? Thank you for that. Sentencing Commission, Director Wallace?
Graves (DOC): And this is actually Tawny Raoul. Is the executive director.
Sen Rice: All right, Mr. Coleman. You’re recognized.
Coleman (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. You can find the Arkansas Sentencing Commission summary on page 258. This is the only appropriation within the division. This is the Sentencing Commission state operations appropriation. There’s a total request for fiscal year 2024 of $395,515 and roughly $2,000 increase for fiscal year 2025. So this appropriation is funded by general revenue through the miscellaneous agency fund. And there are two change levels for the sentencing commission for the upcoming biennium. The first is for personal service matching, and the second is a reallocation of just over $19,000 in professional fees to shared services for the contract that provides the annual inmate population report. And those are the only change levels with the Arkansas Sentencing Commission.
Sen Rice: Okay. Not seeing any questions, did I hear a motion? Motion and second. All in favor, aye. Opposed? Thank you for that. And our last one today is the parole board.
Coleman (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. We have another short one on page 261. This is the Parole Board’s operation appropriation. A total of $2.4 million is being requested for fiscal year 2024, and just a $20,000 increase is requested for fiscal year 2025 from that 2024 number. This is on page 261 again. And this is funded through the miscellaneous agency’s fund account. There’s only one change level for Parole Board, and it’s adjustments to salary and match for each year of the biennium. And Mr. Chair, that concludes Parole Board.
Sen Rice: And welcome, Director Felts. Do you have any statement you’d like to make, you’ve waited patiently. Okay, well, thank you for being here. Not seeing any questions. I have a motion executive rec and a second. All in favor, aye. Opposed? Director Felts, you did very good. Thank you. Secretary Graves and the others, we thank you for being here today, answering all our questions. Members, we’re adjourned until Tuesday at 9:00.