Advancing Justice: Governor Asa Hutchinson Keynote Address

Asa Hutchinson, the current Republican governor of Arkansas, has viewed the criminal justice system from a variety of vantage points at both the state and federal levels. He was a U.S. attorney in the 1980s, during the implementation of some of the first mandatory minimum sentencing laws, and he saw the system in a different light through his work with the House Judiciary Committee. He also headed the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), recognizing even then the destructive disparity between sentences for crack and powder cocaine. Later, he joined the private sector as a defense attorney.

When he became the governor of Arkansas in January 2015, the state was facing prison overcrowding so severe that it would need to allocate $100 million toward building more prison space. During his keynote address, Hutchinson explained that he signed the Right on Crime Statement of Principles because, according to him, conservatives should not hesitate to emphasize principles like fairness, justice, second chances, and fiscal responsibility.

From there, Hutchinson worked to expand alternatives to incarceration that would more successfully rehabilitate offenders and alter behavior. Arkansas devoted $14 million to alternative sentencing courts, expanding them for nonviolent offenders. Efforts like this reduced Arkansas’s backlog of prisoners in county jails from 3,000 to 1,800. Moreover, these measures gave offenders a second chance and saved taxpayers money by reducing long-term prison costs.

Now, Hutchinson is calling for a comprehensive review of state sentencing laws to determine which are most effective. This, he said, is just the beginning of a debate that is essential for the United States. He is confident that citizens’ sense of fairness will enable the country to overcome challenges to achieving meaningful reform.

More Blog Posts

01-25-2021 12:43pm

VELA Education Fund supports innovative Atlanta learning pod

Innovators Mikayla Streeter and Khabral Muhammad explain how they responded to demand for new education models during COVID-19.

Read more

01-25-2021 12:43pm

Recidiviz provides actionable data to fuel criminal justice reform

Recidiviz Co-founder and Executive Director Clementine Jacoby details the organization’s work in a new Stand Together-sponsored video.

Read more

Emerging stronger in 2021

People with first-hand knowledge of the challenges in our country often have the best ideas of how to solve them.

Read more

Sign up for updates