A solid story from the Arkansas News Bureau’s Rob Moritz today looks at questions some state legislators are raising about the new state sentencing law, Act 570, passed in the last legislative session. The article mentions the “End the Arkansas Parole Crisis” (ETAPC) Facebook page administered by an anonymous (so far) law enforcement official who says he wants to shine a light on problems in the state’s parole system.
The ETAPC administrator agreed to an e-mail interview to discuss what he’s hoping to achieve through this exercise in online activism.
Why did you start the “End the Arkansas Parole Crisis” page?
ETAPC: It was a combination of my past experiences at the state Department of Community Correction (DCC), the passage of Act 570 in the last legislative session, and a lot of the dishonesty coming out of DCC.
I would regularly get set off by things I’d see the DCC saying in the newspaper about parole absconders: “If we knew where they were we would go get them,” “If we know were he is, we’ll pick him up.” I knew that wasn’t true from the time I spent as a parole officer. So I launched the Facebook page to expose the dishonesty coming out of DCC by showing how parole absconders are routinely arrested for new crimes and released.
Here’s one example: Maria Ashford went on to brutally stab a man to death after DCC released her from the Pulaski County jail. This was after they failed to file probation revocation paperwork on her years earlier. This type of thing goes on ALL the time.
If you think DCC leadership is doing a good job, pull a parole officer aside. They’ll tell you how DCC operates. Ask any member in law enforcement their opinion of DCC. It’s not a parole officer problem; it’s a leadership problem.
You post on the page anonymously, and your writings suggest you have law enforcement expertise. Why keep your identity under wraps, and what can you tell us about your background?
ETAPC: I’m not really that anonymous. I’m sure DCC knows who I am. I’ve been in law enforcement for almost 20 years now, including a few years in two states as a parole officer.
The page is not about me. I seek no accolades for what I do there. There is really no reason for me to put my name and face on the page. I make it easy for anyone who wants to contact me to do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You’re critical of Act 570, the sentencing reform law passed in the last legislative session to reduce prison overcrowding and cut costs. On the face of it, those sound like reasonable goals. Explain your objections to the law.
ETAPC: Like most things the government does, it looks good on the surface. Somewhere we have forgotten the number one role of government is to protect it citizens.
It makes me sad to hear politicians, Republicans and Democrats, say we can’t afford to keep putting bad people in prison. Saying we have too many people in prison so we need to make it harder to send people there is like saying we have too many DWI arrests so we need to raise the legal BAC limit. Did the legislators that voted for this bill realize we would be paying DCC to not revoke people?
What do you want the “End the Arkansas Parole Crisis” page to achieve? That is, what’s the ideal outcome for this effort?
ETAPC: I hope my efforts will produce some change at DCC. Here’s a recent quote from the DCC spokesperson: “Our client base is not made up of bad people, just people who make bad decisions.” Really? This is the mentality of the leadership at DCC. This is the mentality of the bureaucrats, most with no law enforcement experience, who are in charge of protecting us from dangerous and violent criminals.
When I read that I thought about Ed Harris, an Arkansas parole absconder who shot and killed Virginia Brown, a mother of 13, while she cooked dinner for her family in her east Little Rock residence in 2009. I think about my friend Jennifer Schuett, who was abducted from her bedroom window by a stranger when she was 8 years old, sexually assaulted, throat cut, and left to die on a pile of fire ants. They found her attacker 18 years later, on parole in Little Rock, walking free with multiple parole violations.
I hope by exposing DCC’s blatant dishonesty and disregard for public safety that our state legislators will begin to hold DCC accountable for their actions. With the passage of Act 570, you can bet if we don’t take some action things will get much worse before they get better.