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Griffin files lawsuit against Arkansas Board of Corrections

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(The Center Square) – Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin is suing the seven members of the Arkansas Board of Corrections for allegedly violating the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Griffin said the board held an executive session where they hired outside legal counsel, which violates state law. The board also failed to respond properly to an FOIA request sent by the attorney general this week, he said.

“In the lawsuit, I am asking the court to take three actions: First, to void the board’s illegal agreement entered into with an outside counsel because that agreement was the direct result of an illegal executive session,” Griffin said in a statement. “Second, to void the board’s decision to appoint an acting executive in charge of the Department of Corrections because that decision was also the direct result of an illegal executive session. And third, to order the board to fully respond to my FOIA request.”

Griffin’s lawsuit, filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court, comes one day after the Board of Corrections suspended Corrections Secretary Joe Profiri with pay.

The board is challenging a law that puts the corrections secretary under the authority of the governor, and not the board, based in a bill passed earlier this year.

Sanders, Profiri and others held a news conference last month criticizing the board for not adding about 500 prison beds to take the burden off of county prisons who must house and feed the inmates until there is a space available.

The board said in its lawsuit that the addition of the beds creates staffing and security problems. For example, adding 124 beds to the state’s maximum security ward would create a staffing problem, according to the board.

“Secretary Profiri attempted to rush through an increase in bedspace without properly vetting the propriety of his plan,” the board said in its lawsuit. “Secretary Profiri failed to provide the board with information requested regarding the safety of his plan and he failed to consult with the Compliance Division as to operational adequacy.”

The board is asking for a temporary restraining order to keep Sanders and Profiri from enforcing the new law.

“The defiance exhibited by the Secretary of Corrections and the governor in wielding this illegitimately obtained power not only undermines the rule of law, but also gravely endangers the well-being of corrections officers, inmates and the broader communities within which the board’s facilities operate,” the board said.

In a summary of a meeting between Sanders and Profiri today provided by Sanders’ spokesperson, Alexa Henning, the governor expressed her confidence in Profiri’s leadership.

“They also spoke about the Board of Correction’s politically motivated stunts to suspend Secretary Profiri and how this demonstrates the Board’s commitment to protecting the failed status quo instead of doing their job to keep Arkansans safe,” according to the summary. “Governor Sanders instructed Secretary Profiri to continue to implement the Protect Act and end the failed policy of catch and early release of violent offenders.”

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