Arkansas Department of Corrections

The Arkansas Department of Corrections (DOC), formerly the Arkansas Department of Correction, is the state law enforcement agency that oversees inmates and operates state prisons within the U.S. state of Arkansas. DOC consists of two divisions, the Arkansas Division of Corrections (ADC) and the Arkansas Division of Community Corrections (DCC), as well as the Arkansas Correctional School District. ADC is responsible for housing and rehabilitating people convicted of crimes by the courts of Arkansas. ADC maintains 20 prison facilities for inmates in 12 counties. DCC is responsible for adult parole and probation and offender reentry.

Arkansas Department of Corrections
Agency overview
FormedReorganized 2019
Preceding agencies
  • Arkansas Department of Correction (1968-2019), Arkansas Department of Community Corrections (1993-2019)
  • Arkansas State Penitentiary
JurisdictionState of Arkansas
Headquarters1302 Pike Avenue, Ste. C
North Little Rock, AR 72114
EmployeesDecrease 4,513 [2]
Annual budgetIncrease US$618,305,804 [4]
Agency executives
  • Secretary
  • Joe Profiri
Parent agencyArkansas Board of Corrections
Child agency
Key document
  • Amendment 33, A.C.A. § 12-27-105

The Department of Corrections was officially organized as a cabinet-level state agency in 2019, but traces history back to the first state penitentiary in 1838. Early efforts focused on convict leasing, though the program largely ended toward the end of the 19th century after abuses were exposed, and prisoners were housed in "The Walls" prison in Little Rock until 1933. Arkansas next transitioned to the prison farm system, establishing the Cummins State Farm and Tucker Farm in South Arkansas. Underfunded and mostly operated by so-called 'trusties' (inmates); corrupt and dangerous conditions plagued Arkansas prisons for decades, culminating in several reform efforts throughout the 1960s and 1970s, including the creation of the first modern incarnation of the ADC in 1967.

As the War on drugs and law and order politics became[when?] prominent,[clarification needed] the Arkansas inmate population surged, and ADC built new prisons across the state. Prison conditions slowly improved and scandals became more infrequent. In 1993, Arkansas created the Department of Community Punishment (DCP), which would evolve into the DCC. Arkansas briefly contracted with a private prison between 1998 and 2001, but inmate conditions were unsafe and unsanitary and United States Department of Justice ruled Arkansas' private prison unconstitutional in 2003.



Arkansas became a state in 1836. The first Governor of Arkansas, James S. Conway, pushed the Arkansas General Assembly to allocate funds for a state penitentiary in their first meeting, but he met strong resistance with many of his proposals, and a penitentiary was not funded. The Second General Assembly in 1838 allocated $20,000 ($572,000 today) to a state penitentiary in Little Rock.[5] The state purchased a 92.41-acre (37.40 ha) tract outside of Little Rock in 1839, and the Third General Assembly allocated another $40,500 ($1,236,000 today) in 1840 to finish construction of the Arkansas State Penitentiary. It held 300 prisoners.[6] It was destroyed in 1846 in a prisoner revolt.[7][8]

From 1849 to 1893 the State of Arkansas leased its convicted felons to private individuals. After abuses became publicized, the state assumed direct control of felons. The state continued to have prison labor be hired to contractors, manufacturers, and planters until 1913.[9]

In 1899, the penitentiary site was selected for the new Arkansas State Capitol, which supplanted the Old State House.[10] In the interim, Arkansas leased many convicts to companies, including the Arkansas Brick Manufacturing Company, for as long as ten years in an effort to house them while a new prison was built.[11] Though officials agreed on the need to purchase a prison farm, widespread disagreement about the new prison's location stalled progress further. Governor Jeff Davis vetoed a plan to purchase the Sunnyside Plantation in February 1901.[11] Further trying to make his case for more sweeping penal reform, Governor Davis toured the convict-leasing camp in England, Arkansas and revealed shocking allegations of inhumane treatment.[11] The political battle consumed state politics for the next year. The General Assembly decided to purchase the Cummins Farm over the objection of Governor Davis, who preferred a location in Altheimer.[12] However, ending the convict-lease system would remain an issue in state politics for the next 10 years.

A new prison was simultaneously constructed on a new 15-acre (6.1 ha) site southwest of Little Rock. Nicknamed "The Walls", the new prison opened in 1910. In 1913 act 55, signed into law, lead to the establishment of a permanent execution chamber in the state prison system. In 1916 the state purchased the land which became the Tucker Unit. In 1933 Junius Marion Futrell, then the governor, closed the penitentiary in Little Rock and transferred the prisoners to Cummins and Tucker, and the execution chamber was moved to Tucker.[13]

In 1943 the state established the State Penitentiary Board through Act 1. In 1951 the state established the State Reformatory for Women through Act 351. The state moved the functions of the Arkansas State Training School for Girls to the state prison system.


Discipline was routinely enforced by flogging, beating with clubs, inserting of needles under fingernails, crushing of testicles with pliers, and the last word in torture devices: the "Tucker telephone," an instrument used to send an electric current through genitals[14]

By the 1960s, Arkansas was infamous for operating one of the most corrupt and dangerous prison systems in the nation.[15] Both Cummins and Tucker relied on the trusty system, which created a hierarchy of prisoners, with some designated as 'trusties' who the guards trusted with many of the day-to-day duties.[16] The Tucker Telephone was a torture device designed using parts from an old-fashioned crank telephone used to apply an electric shock to an uncooperative prisoner's genitals at Tucker.[17] Atrocious conditions in the prison system had long been known about in Arkansas, but rose in prominence during the 1960s.

In 1965, Federal Judge J. Smith Henley ruled in favor of Cummins inmates in Talley v. Stephens,[Notes 1] who sued claiming they were unconstitutionally subjected to cruel and unusual punishments and denied access to the courts and medical care. Henley ordered the prison stop forcing prisoners to work beyond their physical ability, cease arbitrary use of corporal punishment by "blows with a leather strap", and to allow access to medical care and legal resources without fear or reprisals. The case initiated a long legal saga that would eventually lead to major reforms in Arkansas prisons.

Governor Orval Faubus ordered a study of conditions at Tucker, but suppressed the report when it found torture, violence, rape, corruption and graft widespread by both trusties and prison officials.[18] The report also found "To make profits, the prisoners were driven remorselessly from dawn to dusk in the fields, especially at harvest time". Both farms were operated to generate revenues to the state. A 1968 Time article entitled "Hell in Arkansas" found the two farms "averaged" profits of "about $1,400,000 over the years..." ($12.3 million today) using prisoners as forced labor.[19][20][21]

Department founding 1967 and early history


Winthrop Rockefeller, running on a good government platform, released the previously suppressed report publicly upon election to the Governor's office in 1967. Rockefeller succeeded in reorganizing the penitentiary system into the Arkansas Department of Correction through Act 50 in the 66th Arkansas General Assembly.[13] The ADC assumed control over the Tucker State Prison Farm for younger white prisoners, and the 1,300-inmate[19] Cummins Farm[22] for "white and black adult inmates".[23] Rockefeller hired the first professional penologist, Tom Murton, as prison superintendent in 1967. On January 29, 1968, Murton invited the media to witness the unearthing of three decayed skeletal remains in a remote part of the 16,000-acre grounds of the Cummins prison farm. They believed the skeletons were those of prisoners murdered at Cummins,[23] although this was never proven.[24][25] Fired after less than a year, Murton's aggressive approach to uncovering Arkansas' prison scandal with its decades-long systemic corruption, embarrassed Rockefeller and "infuriated conservative politicians".[23] Murton had attracted nationwide media attention and contempt for Arkansas,[22] as news of Bodiesburg, as it was called, spread.[23] Murton's co-authored 1969 book, Accomplices to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison Scandal was the basis for the fictionalized 1980 film Brubaker starring Robert Redford.[26]

In Holt v. Sarver, Judge Henley ruled several aspects of Arkansas's prison system unconstitutional and provided guidelines to get the system into compliance. The following year, Henley found the entire prison system operated by the ADC unconstitutional, as issues restricting inmates' access to court and cruel and unusual punishment remained in violation of his previous ruling. A 1969 case challenging many aspects of the ADC prison system lasted almost a decade, resulting in the Supreme Court landmark case Hutto v. Finney 437 U.S. 678 (437 U.S. 678 (1978)). The case also clarified prison system's unacceptable punitive measures.[citation needed] T. Don Hutto had been hired by Governor Dale Bumpers in 1971 as the head of the Arkansas Department of Correction,[27] with a mandate of "humanizing" the "convict farms".[19][21][28]

In 1974, Hutto resigned and moved to Virginia to become deputy director of the Virginia Department of Corrections.[29]

Recent history


In 2014 the state made a call for cities to submit bids to host a new maximum security prison.[30]

2019 State government reorganization


Following state government reorganization in 2019, the State of Arkansas created the cabinet level Department of Corrections (DOC) as the umbrella department for several corrections-related state agencies. DOC oversees administrative functions for these several units, including the Division of Community Corrections (DCC), Arkansas Parole Board (APB), Arkansas Sentencing Commission (ASC), Arkansas Criminal Detention Facility Review Committee, and the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision.

The primary duties of the old ADC is now under the auspices of the Division of Corrections, with DCC becoming the Division of Community Corrections, with both reporting to the Secretary of Corrections, a cabinet-level position.

Division of Correction

Arkansas Division of Correction
Agency overview
Preceding agency
  • Arkansas State Penitentiary
Jurisdictional structure
Legal jurisdictionArkansas
Governing bodyArkansas Board of Corrections
Constituting instrument
General nature
Operational structure
Headquarters6814 Princeton Pike
Pine Bluff, AR 71602
Agency executive
  • Dexter Payne, Director



The headquarters are in Pine Bluff.[31][32] The ADC headquarters moved to the Pine Bluff Complex in 1979.[33] Previously they were located in the State Office Building in Little Rock.[34]


Varner Unit, one of the ADC parent units

For the diagnostic process, male inmates go to the Ouchita River Correctional Unit in Malvern,[35] and women go to the McPherson Unit in Newport. Male death row inmates are housed at the Varner Super Max Unit while women with death sentences are received at McPherson. The death chamber is located at the Cummins Unit.[36] Previously the Diagnostic Unit in Pine Bluff was the intake unit for male prisoners.[35]

After the intake process, most inmates go to a "parent unit" for their initial assignment. The male parent units are Cummins, East Arkansas, Grimes, Tucker, and Varner. The McPherson Unit is the female parent unit. The initial assignments last for at least 60 days. Inmates may be moved to other units based on behavior, institutional needs, job availability, and available space.[36]

The ADC operates the Willis H. Sargent Training Academy in England, Arkansas.[37]

Boards and Commissions


In Arkansas's shared services model of state government, the cabinet-level agencies assist boards and commissions who have an overlapping scope. DOC supports:

  • Arkansas Board of Corrections
  • Arkansas Parole Board
  • Arkansas Sentencing Commission
  • Criminal Detention Facility Review Committee
  • Arkansas State Council for the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision

Death row

Cummins Unit serves as a parent unit for male prisoners and houses the State of Arkansas execution chamber

Male death row inmates are located at the Varner Unit's Supermax, while the executions are performed at the Cummins Unit, adjacent to Varner.[38] The female death row is located at the McPherson Unit. In 1999 the female death row was newly inaugurated.[39]

In 1974 male death row inmates, previously at the Tucker Unit, were moved to the Cummins Unit.[33] In 1986 male death row inmates were moved to the Maximum Security Unit.[33] On Friday August 22, 2003, all 39 Arkansas death row inmates, all of them male, were moved to the Supermax at the Varner Unit.[40]



As of June 3, 2015 the ADC has 18,681 prisoners. This is an increase from 1977, when it had 2,519 prisoners.[41] After a parole violator was accused of committing a 2013 murder,[42] the Arkansas Board of Corrections changed the conditions of parole, stating that any parolee accused of committing a felony must have his/her parole revoked, even if he/she has not yet been convicted of that felony. This caused the prison population to increase.[41]



Prisons include:[43]

Facility Location
Barbara Ester Unit (capacity 580) off Highway 65 in Jefferson County, Pine Bluff
Benton Unit (capacity 325) off Highway 67 in Saline County, 5 miles (8 km) south of Benton
Cummins Unit(capacity 1725) off Highway 65 in Lincoln County, 28 miles (45 km) south of Pine Bluff
Delta Regional Unit (capacity 599) in Chicot County, 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Pine Bluff
East Arkansas Regional Unit (capacity 1432) in Lee County, 17 miles (27 km) southeast of Forrest City
Grimes Unit(capacity 1012) off Highway 384 in Jackson County, 4 miles (6 km) northeast of Newport
J. Aaron Hawkins Sr. Center (capacity 212) off Highway 365 in Wrightsville, Pulaski County, 10 miles (16 km) south of Little Rock
Maximum Security Unit(capacity 532) off Highway 15 in Jefferson County, 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Pine Bluff
McPherson Unit(capacity 971) off Highway 384 in Jackson County, 4 miles (6 km) northeast of Newport
Mississippi County Work Release Center (capacity 121) off Meadow Road in Mississippi County, 1 mile (2 km) west of Luxora
North Central Unit (capacity 800) in Calico Rock, Izard County
Northwest Arkansas Work Release Center (capacity 100) in Springdale, Washington County
Ouachita River Unit(capacity 1782) off Highway 67 South in Hot Spring County, 2 miles (3 km) south of Malvern
Pine Bluff Unit (capacity 430) off West 7th Street in Jefferson County, west of Pine Bluff
Randall L. Williams Correctional Center (capacity 562) West of Pine Bluff, off West 7th St., (Pine Bluff Complex) in Jefferson County
Texarkana Regional Correction Center (capacity 128) off East 5th Street in Texarkana, Miller County
Tucker Unit(capacity 1126) off Highway 15 in Tucker, Jefferson County, 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Pine Bluff
Willis H. Sargent Training Academy England, Arkansas
Varner Unit(capacity 1714) off Highway 65 in Varner, Lincoln County, 28 miles (45 km) south of Pine Bluff
Wrightsville Unit(capacity 850) off Highway 365 in Wrightsville, Pulaski County, 10 miles (16 km) south of Little Rock

Division of Community Corrections


The Division of Community Corrections (DCC) is the parole and community corrections state agency of Arkansas. ACC headquarters is located in North Little Rock.

Residential facilities


Facilities include:[44]



Arkansas Correctional School provides educational services to ADC prisoners and DCC facilities.[45]

See also



  1. ^ The superintendent at Cummins was Dan D. Stephens.


  1. ^ Michael R. Wickline (November 28, 2022). "Arkansas' number of full-time state employees up 108 in fiscal 2022". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Little Rock: WEHCO Media. ISSN 1060-4332. Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  2. ^ Fiscal Year 2022[1]
  3. ^ Staff of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (2022). "State of Arkansas Appropriation Summary" (PDF). 2022 Budget. Little Rock: Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. Retrieved February 26, 2023.
  4. ^ Fiscal Year 2022[3]
  5. ^ "Governors" (1995), p. 7.
  6. ^ Barnard, Lewis (Autumn 1954). "Old Arkansas State Penitentiary". Arkansas Historical Quarterly. 13 (1). Fayetteville, Arkansas: Arkansas Historical Association: 321–323. doi:10.2307/40037984. ISSN 0004-1823. JSTOR 40037984.
  7. ^ "Unfolding Misconceptions: The Arkansas State Penitentiary, 1836-1986 | Office of Justice Programs".
  8. ^ Herndon, Dallas Tabor (1922). "The High Lights of Arkansas History".
  9. ^ Federal Writers' Project. Arkansas: A Guide to the State. US History Publishers, 1958. 277. Retrieved from Google Books on March 5, 2011. ISBN 1-60354-004-0, ISBN 978-1-60354-004-9
  10. ^ "Governors" (1995), p. 113.
  11. ^ a b c "Governors" (1995), p. 120.
  12. ^ "Governors" (1995), pp. 124–125.
  13. ^ a b "Prison History and Gallery Archived 2011-03-10 at the Wayback Machine." Arkansas Department of Correction. Retrieved on March 5, 2011.
  14. ^ "U.S. Prisons: Myth vs. Mayhem". TIME, May 5, 1980 essay by Frank Trippett on prison reform, quoting Murton, accessed September 13, 2006.
  15. ^ Donovan, Timothy Paul; Gatewood, Willard B; Whayne, Jeannie M., eds. (1995) [1981]. The Governors of Arkansas: Essays in Political Biography (2 ed.). Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. ISBN 1-55728-331-1. LCCN 94-45806.
  16. ^ Woodward, Colin (Spring 2020). "There's a lot of things that need changin'": Johnny Cash, Winthrop Rockefeller, and Prison Reform in Arkansas. Vol. 79. Fayetteville, Arkansas: Arkansas Historical Association. p. 46. ISSN 0004-1823. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  17. ^ "Cash" (2020), pp. 46–47.
  18. ^ "Cash" (2020), p. 47.
  19. ^ a b c Jackson, Bruce. Pictures from a Drawer: Prison and the Art of Portraiture. Trinity University Press.
  20. ^ "Hell In Arkansas". TIME. February 9, 1968. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. Retrieved September 13, 2006.
  21. ^ a b Estrin, James (May 27, 2009). "Showcase: A Wide View of a Hellish World". The New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  22. ^ a b Fowler, Glenn (October 19, 1990). "Thomas Murton, 62, a Penologist Who Advocated Reforms, Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  23. ^ a b c d Woodward, Colin Edward (March 22, 2018). "The Arkansas prison scandal". Arkansas Times. Little Rock, Arkansas. Retrieved October 16, 2018. In the 1960s, Tom Murton attempted to reform Cummins prison farm, but lost his job after unearthing three skeletons on the grounds.
  24. ^ Feeley, Malcolm M.; Rubin, Edward L. (March 28, 2000) [June 13, 1998]. Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America. Cambridge University Press. p. 490. ISBN 0521777348. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
  25. ^ "Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678 (1978)". Archived from the original on May 6, 2012. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  26. ^ Murton, Tom; Hyams, Joe (1969). Accomplices to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison Scandal. New York, U.S.: Grove Press. ISBN 9780718101107.
  27. ^ Woodward, Colin Edward (August 9, 2017). "Terrell Don Hutto (1935–)". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  28. ^ Choate, Laura (July 19, 2018). "Prison Reform". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Conway, Arkansas. Retrieved October 15, 2018.{{cite encyclopedia}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  29. ^ "Ex-Officials from Virginia on CCA Staff". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Richmond, VA. October 20, 1985. p. A-8. Retrieved November 21, 2020 – via NewsBank: America's News.
  30. ^ "Cities to answer state's want ad for new prison" (Archive). Associated Press, Courier News, July 31, 2014. Retrieved on September 22, 2015.
  31. ^ "Pine Bluff city, Arkansas[permanent dead link]." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on September 7, 2010.
  32. ^ "Facilities Archived 2009-12-01 at the Wayback Machine." Arkansas Department of Correction. Retrieved on December 8, 2009. "Central Office Location: West of Pine Bluff on Princeton Pike Road in Jefferson Country"
  33. ^ a b c "2006 Facts Brochure" (). Arkansas Department of Correction. July 1, 2005-June 30, 2006. 26 (26/38). Retrieved on August 15, 2010.
  34. ^ Reagen, Michael V. and Donald M. Stoughton/ School Behind Bars: A Descriptive Overview of Correctional Education in the American Prison System. The Scarecrow Press, 1976. "174. Retrieved from Google Books on March 6, 2011. "Arkansas Department of Corrections State Office Building Little Rock, Arkansas 72201" ISBN 0-8108-0891-9, ISBN 978-0-8108-0891-1.
  35. ^ a b "ADC to open state-of-the-art special needs facility." Arkansas Department of Correction. November 30, 2011. Retrieved on May 9, 2017.
  36. ^ a b "Guide for Family and Friends Archived August 19, 2010, at the Wayback Machine." (Archive) Arkansas Department of Correction. 6 . Retrieved on March 26, 2013.
  37. ^ "Training FAQ Archived 2015-12-07 at the Wayback Machine." Arkansas Department of Correction. Retrieved on September 22, 2015. "The Willis H. Sargent Training Academy is located at 1500 NE 1st St, England, AR 72046. "
  38. ^ "State Capitol Week in Review." State of Arkansas. June 13, 2008. Retrieved on August 15, 2010. "Executions are carried out in the Cummins Unit, which is adjacent to Varner."
  39. ^ Haddigan, Michael. "They Kill Women, Don't They?" Arkansas Times. April 9, 1999. Retrieved on August 15, 2010.
  40. ^ "Death Row On The Move" (Archive). KAIT. August 26, 2003. Retrieved on August 15, 2010.
  41. ^ a b Millar, Lindsey. "Arkansas's prison population continues to climb ." Arkansas Times. June 17, 2015. Retrieved on March 2, 2016.
  42. ^ Millar, Lindsey. "Arkansas's prison population, and related expense, is exploding ." Arkansas Times. July 13, 2015. Retrieved on March 2, 2016.
  43. ^ "Facilities". Arkansas Department of Correction. Archived from the original on 2013-07-08.
  44. ^ "Locations Archived February 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine." Arkansas Department of Community Corrections. Retrieved on March 5, 2011.
  45. ^ "ADC Facilities." Arkansas Correctional School. Retrieved on July 18, 2010.