Arkansas lawmakers give final approval to key part of plan to ease prison overcrowding


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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — A central part of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson's plan to ease prison overcrowding by clearing the way for the state to partner with counties on regional facilities and expanding alternative sentencing has been given final approval by lawmakers.

The bill approved on a 33-0 vote by the Senate on Thursday is aimed at helping clear the backlog of more than 2,600 state inmates at county jails. It allows inmates to apply for Medicaid benefits and provides avenues for them to enroll in drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.

The bill also reclassifies residential burglary as a violent crime.

Defense attorneys objected to the bill, saying it will harm efforts to ease overcrowding by allowing warrantless searches of parolees by law enforcement.

The measure now heads to Hutchinson's desk.

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