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Sanders says its time for corrections board chairman to resign

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(The Center Square) – Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday that Board of Corrections President Benny Magness should resign immediately, one day after he asked for National Guard troops to help with prison staffing.

Sanders and Magness are at odds over the addition of 500 prison beds, which the governor and Corrections Secretary Joe Profiri said are needed to take the burden off county jails housing state prisoners.

The Board of Corrections filed a lawsuit asking a judge to temporarily stop enforcing a law that gives the authority over the corrections secretary. The judge agreed to the injunction and set a hearing for Dec. 28. The board said Profiri’s request for additional beds was not vetted and could make the prisons unsafe for staff and inmates.

Profiri is suspended without pay.

Magness asked Sanders for 138 full-time National Guardsmen to staff the prisons in a letter sent Thursday.

“Your letter is yet another example of the desire to play political games, and this time you are involving our brave National guardsmen and women as pawns,” Sanders said in a letter sent Friday morning. “Secretary Profiri had a plan to safely reopen beds with no additional personnel needed. If the Board wants to reactivate beds, then they should reinstate the Secretary and implement his plan without delay.”

According to the governor, prison wardens and Derrick Payne, director of the Division of Corrections, said the additional bed space would not affect protocols or operations.

“If the Board of Corrections is truly concerned about the safety of those involved in the prison system, the safety of the public at large, and the safety of our military personnel, you will immediately put Secretary Profiri back to work to fulfill his plan for staffing the prison systems,” Sanders said. “Mr. Chairman it is time to put the safety of Arkansans first and step aside.”

The battle over prison beds is just one dispute between state officials and the Board of Corrections. Attorney General Tim Griffin sued the board for allegedly violating the state’s Freedom of Information Act and entered an illegal agreement with outside counsel.

A Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge ordered Griffin to reach an agreement with the board within 30 days, or the case could be dismissed.

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