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Weekly Address — June 6, 2019

In February of 1907, the legislature approved an act to appropriate $50,000 for the operations of state prisons.

Keep in mind that in those days the legislature met once every other year, so the $50,000 was meant to cover all prison expenses for a two-year period.

For comparison, earlier this year the legislature appropriated more than $350 million for state prisons.

And that was just for one year. Of course, the state now operates 19 prison units, and they are spread out in all four corners of Arkansas. In 1907 there was only one penitentiary, near Little Rock, and the Cummins Prison Farm on the Arkansas River south of Pine Bluff.

Cummins had just recently been opened. In 1902 the state paid $140,000 for 10,000 acres of land for the Cummins prison farm. Can you imagine purchasing 10,000 acres of farm land today for $140,000? Of course, in 1907 they would never have imagined the necessity for laws to restrict the flow of contraband such as K2 into state prisons.

K2 is often called synthetic marijuana, but that is deceiving because in reality it’s a cornucopia of dangerous chemicals, which have been sprayed on dried leaves to give it the appearance of marijuana.

In fact, it is deadly, as prison officials can tell you.

More than a dozen inmates died from smoking K2, and the actual number may be much higher. We don’t know the exact number, because the complexity of chemicals in K2 make it expensive to test for the cause of death.

Last year K2 was confiscated more than 1,000 times from Arkansas inmates, and more than nine prison employees were suspended for smuggling K2 into prisons.

For perspective, that’s just a small fraction of the total prison workforce of 4,750 people who work for the Correction Department.

From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.


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