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Judicial ruling prevents Arkansas law from revoking board’s authority to dismiss state corrections secretary

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A new law in Arkansas that aimed to give the governor more control over the state corrections secretary and other top officials has been blocked by a judge. The law, which was the latest development in an ongoing power struggle between the Board of Corrections and Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was halted by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Patricia James. The board had filed a lawsuit and suspended Corrections Secretary Joe Profiri with pay before obtaining a temporary restraining order against the new law.

The Board of Corrections argued that the law violated the state’s constitution by encroaching on its authority and giving the governor hiring and firing power over the corrections secretary. The dispute escalated when the Sanders administration announced plans to open hundreds of new temporary prison beds without the board’s approval, a move that the board claimed would compromise the safety of inmates and staff.

The ruling by Judge James temporarily blocked the law, which also aimed to give Profiri, rather than the board, the authority to hire and fire staff in the correction and community correction divisions. A hearing over the lawsuit has been set for December, with the Attorney General’s office preparing a response to the ruling.

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In response to the ruling, a spokeswoman for Governor Sanders stated that they would work with the Attorney General’s office to “respond appropriately in court, end the policy of catch and early release of dangerous criminals, and defend the safety of Arkansans.”

The legal battle between the Board of Corrections and the state government intensified on the same day, with Attorney General Tim Griffin filing a lawsuit against the board for alleged violations of the state’s Freedom of Information Act. The board’s attorney criticized Griffin’s lawsuit, accusing it of being politically motivated.

The ongoing dispute between the Board of Corrections and Governor Sanders highlights the complex and contentious dynamics at play in the state’s prison system and the struggle for control and decision-making authority.

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