Law Enforcement

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Entry Category: Law Enforcement

Arkansas Department of Corrections

The umbrella entity of the Arkansas Department of Corrections, created by Act 910 of 2019, is composed of over 6,000 employees within the following: the Division of Correction (formerly the Arkansas Department of Correction), the Division of Community Correction (formerly Arkansas Department of Community Correction), the Corrections School System (Arkansas Correctional School District and Riverside Vocational Technical School), and the Office of the Criminal Detention Facility Review Coordinator, along with the administrative functions of the Criminal Detention Facility Review Committees, Parole Board, Sentencing Commission; and State Council for the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision. The Division of Correction (ADC) enforces the court-mandated sentences for people convicted of crimes at a variety of prison facilities located in twelve counties across …

Arkansas Division of Community Correction (ADCC)

The Arkansas Division of Community Correction (ADCC) oversees the state’s non-traditional correction programs, such as probation and parole, as well as community correction centers that offer drug/alcohol treatment and vocational programs. ADCC’s mission is “To promote public safety and a crime-free lifestyle by providing cost-effective community-based sanctions, and enforcing state laws and court mandates in the supervision and treatment of adult offenders.” ADCC was originally named the Arkansas Department of Community Punishment, which was created by Acts 548 and 549 of 1993. The act noted that “the ever increasing numbers of offenders in traditional penitentiaries” brought “added fiscal pressures on state government” and thus sought to bring the cost down “through the use of community punishment programs and non-traditional facilities” …

Arkansas Highway Police

The Arkansas Highway Police is the oldest statewide law enforcement agency in Arkansas and serves as the law enforcement branch of the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The duties of the agency have changed over time, but the emphasis remains on protection of the state’s highway and transportation system. The Highway Police is overseen by an agency director with the rank of chief. The chief serves at the pleasure of the director of the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The Highway Police’s main headquarters are located in Little Rock (Pulaski County) next to the central office of the Department of Transportation. The Highway Police is divided into five districts, each of which is commanded by an officer with the rank of captain. …

Arkansas State Crime Laboratory

The Arkansas State Crime Laboratory was established by Act 517 of 1977, Act 864 of 1979, and Act 45 of 1981. The laboratory offers services to state law enforcement agencies in forensic pathology, toxicology, physical evidence (serological and trace evidence), drug analysis, latent fingerprint identification, firearms and toolmarks, digital evidence, and DNA. The laboratory also participates with several federal agencies in the collection of data in the areas of DNA, through the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS); latent fingerprints, though the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS); and firearms, through the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN). In 2019, the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory was placed under the newly created umbrella agency the Arkansas Department of Public Safety (ADPS), along …

Arkansas State Police

A division within the umbrella agency of the Arkansas Department of Public Safety (ADPS), the Arkansas State Police is the state’s primary statewide law enforcement agency. Although it has had many duties since its inception, the primary functions of the agency remain criminal investigation, traffic safety, and highway patrol. As a state agency, the State Police is overseen by a director bearing the rank of colonel who serves at the pleasure of the governor. The State Police’s main headquarters are located in Little Rock (Pulaski County), with the highway patrol organized into twelve regional “troops,” each commanded by a captain, and the criminal investigation division organized into six regional “companies,” each commanded by a lieutenant. The creation of a centralized, …

Capital Punishment

aka: Death Penalty
The death penalty was practiced in Arkansas even before the state was admitted to the Union in 1836. According to the Arkansas News, “during the American Revolution several members of the garrison at Arkansas Post were convicted of having plotted on behalf of the English to massacre all the soldiers at the Post. They were executed by a firing squad in New Orleans.” These executions mark the first recorded death sentences for crimes committed in Arkansas. The Arkansas criminal code provides for the death penalty or life without parole upon conviction of capital murder or treason. Those convicted of rape were also subject to the death penalty until January 1, 1976, prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Coker …

Conner, Laura Cornelius

Laura Nancy Cornelius Conner was a prison reformer, educator, and farmer. In the 1920s, she served on the penitentiary board during the governorship of Thomas McRae. Conner was shocked by the conditions in the Arkansas prisons, but despite support from prisoners, community leaders, and legal experts, she was unable to make progress in reforming the penitentiary. She returned to her hometown, where she was an educator and planter until her death. Laura Cornelius was born on October 24, 1864 in Augusta (Woodruff County). She was one of eight children born to William Cornelius and Arabella White Cornelius. Arabella Cornelius died when Laura was three. After the death of her father in 1876, Laura moved in with her sister Ella and …

Corrothers, Helen Gladys Curl

Helen G. Corrothers is a well-respected figure in the world of criminal justice who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve on the United States Parole Board and then the United States Sentencing Commission in the 1980s. Helen Gladys Curl was born on March 19, 1937, in Montrose (Ashley County) to Thomas Curl and Christene Farley Curl. Her father died when she was two. Following high school, Corrothers earned an Associate of Arts degree in liberal arts from Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She then entered the U.S. Army, serving from 1956 to 1969. She earned the rank of captain. Over the course of her army career in the Far East, Europe, and the United States, …

County Judge, Office of

Each county in Arkansas has a county judge, who is the chief executive officer of the county, as well as several other countywide office holders including a quorum court (legislative body) made up of justices of the peace elected from single-member districts. The county judge is custodian of county property and public buildings. Counties are essentially subdivisions of the state government. The Arkansas General Assembly controls them to the extent it desires, except as forbidden by state constitutional law. According to the Arkansas Supreme Court, a county is a political subdivision of the state established for a more convenient administration of justice and for purposes of providing services for the state. The highest county executive office is that of county judge. …

Criminal Justice Institute

The Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) is a nonprofit educational entity that provides programs and services designed to enhance the proficiency of Arkansas law enforcement professionals. As a division of the University of Arkansas System, the CJI delivers advanced education and training across the state in progressive areas of criminal justice, including law enforcement management, forensic sciences, computer applications, traffic safety, school safety, and drug issues. The Criminal Justice Institute was founded in 1988 on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) campus to address the management education and training needs of Arkansas law enforcement. Act 1111 of 1993 designated the institute as coordinator and manager of all supervisory, managerial, and executive education and training for Arkansas law enforcement. The …

Cummins Prison Break of 1940

The Cummins prison break on the morning of September 2, 1940, which was Labor Day, involved the escape of thirty-six white men from Cummins Unit (often referred to as Cummins prison farm), the largest of the three prison units in the state. The escape is the largest in Arkansas history. All the men were ultimately captured or killed by authorities. Four of the escapees were executed in Louisiana in 1941 for the murder of a deputy the day after they broke out of Cummins; these men claimed they escaped because of the horrible conditions at the prison farm. Despite an investigation into conditions at the prison, no serious attempt at reform was initiated. The 1940 escape was the first major …

Cummins Prison Strike of 1974

The Cummins prison strike of 1974 was a non-violent incident involving 200 inmates who stopped work for twenty minutes on Monday, October 14, to protest conditions at the Cummins prison farm. At 1,350 inmates at that time, Cummins—located five miles southeast of Grady (Lincoln County)—was the largest of the Arkansas prison farms. The strike was swiftly stopped by Cummins superintendent Art Lockhart, who used riot guards to ensure that prisoners returned quickly to work without any violence. By Tuesday, Cummins had returned to normal. The strike revealed that inmates could peacefully protest at that time without fear of severe physical punishment. It also showed that unrest still existed, and the prisons had more work to do before they achieved compliance …

Cummins Unit

aka: Cummins Prison Farm
Cummins Unit is a 16,600-acre maximum-security prison located five miles southeast of Grady (Lincoln County). Cummins is run by the Arkansas Department of Correction and houses male and female inmates. It is also the location of Arkansas’s facilities for administering the death penalty. Cummins is the oldest and largest of the state’s working “prison farms,” which use inmate labor to grow crops and produce livestock. In 1897, the Arkansas General Assembly established that the state could purchase “any lands, buildings, machinery, livestock and tools necessary for the use, preservation, and operation of the penitentiary.” In 1902, the state bought 10,000 acres of property—consisting of land from the Cummins and Maple Grove plantations—to create the Cummins prison farm. Cummins would later gain …

Dewees, Mary

A renowned reformer and advocate for prisoners’ rights, Mary Dewees was the first superintendent of the Arkansas State Farm for Women, the state’s first women’s prison, from 1920 to 1924. Mary Dewees was born on July 5, 1895, to Thomas B. Dewees and Lillie Dewees in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Bucknell University, where she studied social work and became well versed in the latest forms of progressive penology, especially ways to reform so-called wayward women. Dewees became director of education at New Jersey’s Clinton Farms reform school for women in 1918. At the age of twenty-five, Dewees was recruited by Grace Robson, another women’s reform pioneer who helped organize New Jersey’s first women’s reformatory in 1913. The following year, …

Hawkins, Marlin Conover

Marlin Conover Hawkins served Conway County as an elected official for thirty-eight years. His ability to deliver votes to statewide and national candidates gave Hawkins a profile in state politics that was rare for a county official. His political machine is an important part of Arkansas’s political lore, and the effects of his political contacts are still evident in Conway County. Marlin Hawkins was born on April 22, 1913, near Center Ridge (Conway County) to John Carl and Nettie Mae Hawkins. John Carl Hawkins, a sharecropper and part-time barber, died in 1929. As the second of seven children, part of the burden of supporting the family fell on Hawkins. He worked as a sharecropper and part-time janitor until Olen Fullerton, …

Henslee, Lee

Lee Henslee was the longest-serving superintendent of the Arkansas prison system. He was appointed head of the state penitentiary in 1949 by Governor Sid McMath and served in that position until 1963. Henslee received praise from Governor Orval Faubus, but he was superintendent in a time when abuse and corruption at the prisons were rampant. Lee Henslee was born on September 4, 1903, on a family farm five miles east of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). He was one of three children born to Edward Anderson Henslee (1863–1949), a native of Mississippi, and Clara Belle Treadwell Henslee (1874–1963), a native of Arkansas. Lee Henslee grew up in Pine Bluff. He married Mississippi native Mary Alcorn (1902–1990) on August 22, 1924, in …

Hutto, Terrell Don

Terrell Don Hutto was head of the Arkansas Department of Correction from 1971 to 1976, serving under Governor Dale Bumpers and later Governor David Pryor. Hutto arrived in Arkansas not long after the landmark Holt v. Sarver decision, which declared the entire state prison system unconstitutional. Hutto faced some controversy during his tenure, but he was largely successful in modernizing the state’s penitentiary and bringing it into compliance with federal prison standards. Hutto later worked as an administrator in the Virginia prison system and was one of the founders of the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). T. Don Hutto was born on June 8, 1935, in Sinton, Texas, to Terrell Sanford Hutto and Winnie Elvenia Cusler Hutto. Hutto’s father, who …

Lockhart, Art

Arthur L. (Art) Lockhart was as an administrator in the Arkansas prison system for twenty years. He moved to Arkansas in the early 1970s at the behest of Terrell Don Hutto, then head of the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC). Lockhart worked as the superintendent at Cummins Unit maximum-security prison for ten years before being made head of the ADC in 1981. Lockhart proved a controversial figure and was accused of wrongdoing during the blood plasma scandal of the early 1990s. The scandal led to his resignation. Art Lockhart was born October 14, 1940, in White Hall (Jefferson County). He later moved to Texas, where he attended high school and college. Lockhart played basketball and football at Hardin High School …

Maledon, George

While much of his life is shrouded in legend, according to a number of sources, George Maledon was the most prolific executioner in the United States in the last third of the nineteenth century. Working as the hangman for the famed Judge Isaac Parker for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), he reportedly performed as many as eighty-one executions, although more recent historical accounts put the number at closer to fifty. George Maledon was born in Germany on June 10, 1830. He immigrated with his parents, about whom little is known, to the United States, settling in the Detroit, Michigan, area, where they joined the small German Catholic community that had …

McDonald, Maurice Neal “Nick”

Maurice Neal “Nick” McDonald was a patrolman for the Dallas Police Department who achieved international renown for arresting Lee Harvey Oswald shortly after the murder of John F. Kennedy. Nick McDonald was born on March 21, 1928, in Camden (Ouachita County), the second of three sons born to Beulah Lee Womack McDonald and Thomas “Bid” McDonald, a laborer in the southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana oil industry. After McDonald’s younger brother died, his parents divorced, and his mother moved to Maine; McDonald remained in Arkansas with his grandparents, Charles Womack, a local businessman, and his wife, Laura. While attending Camden High School, McDonald was given the moniker “Nick,” and, with his grandmother’s reluctant permission, he joined the U.S. Navy at …

Morgan Nick Alert

The Morgan Nick Alert is the Arkansas name for the nationally recognized Amber Alert Program designed to alert citizens that a juvenile is missing. For this reason, the Morgan Nick Alert is more formally known as the Morgan Nick Amber Alert. Named after Morgan Nick, a then six-year-old girl who went missing from Alma (Crawford County) in 1995, the Morgan Nick Alert is a partnered approach by local law enforcement, media, and civic groups to increase awareness of a possible abduction and thereby increase the probability of locating a missing child. On June 9, 1995, Morgan Chauntel Nick was presumably abducted from the parking lot of a city park in Alma. Although thousands of leads have been investigated by the …

Murton, Thomas Orhelius

Tom Murton is best known for his attempts to reform the Arkansas prison system during the governorship of Winthrop Rockefeller. Intelligent and conscientious with a dry sense of humor, Murton could also prove abrasive and uncompromising with others, especially his superiors. His uncovering of three skeletons at Cummins prison farm in early 1968 gained national attention, and his handling of the matter drew the ire of the Rockefeller administration. Murton wrote a bestselling book about his time in Arkansas, Accomplices to the Crime (1969), on which the 1980 movie starring Robert Redford was loosely based. Thomas Orhelius Murton was born in Los Angeles, California, on March 15, 1928, the son of Oregon native Edmund T. Murton and Oklahoma native Bessie Glass Stevens …

Penal Systems

aka: Prisons
The penal system of Arkansas has been fraught with controversy through the years. It has been central to the careers of some of the state’s governors and has more than once drawn national and international attention for its faults and shortcomings. Beginnings Many of the Europeans who settled in the United States believed that the chief purpose of government was to punish sinners while leaving the righteous alone. As a result, many of the early actions of colonial and territorial Arkansas pertained to crime and punishment (as was the case across North America). Arkansas Post was a colonial settlement of the French and Spanish (mostly the French) during the seventeenth century; a prison was one of the first structures to …

Phillips County Penal Farm Historic District

The Phillips County Penal Farm Historic District, located on Phillips County Road 353 south of U.S. 49 near Poplar Grove, contains a main jail building constructed of concrete with a large concrete block section at the rear, two additional concrete block jail buildings, and a cast-concrete water tower. The complex is no longer in use and is heavily overgrown, but it still reflects its original use as a county prison farm. According to Goodspeed’s Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Eastern Arkansas, a sturdy jail was a local priority from the earliest days of Phillips County. The first structure built for county use was a two-story log building that housed a courtroom above and a jail below, which were soon replaced …

Prison Reform

The poor condition of Arkansas prisons has long been a subject of controversy in the state. The national prison system as a whole, and particularly in the South, was substandard up to the 1960s. Repeated scandal, evidence of extensive violence and rape, and violation of human rights brought national attention to Arkansas, placing pressure on the state to reform its penal system. Through a series of reforms beginning in 1967, the Arkansas prison system greatly improved, although issues of overcrowding still plague the state today. Calls for prison reform began in the late nineteenth century, especially with regard to the system of convict leasing, whereby prisoners were rented out to labor for private enterprises, often in horrible conditions. Governor George …

Quadruple Execution of 1923

Four inmates were executed on February 2, 1923, at the Arkansas State Penitentiary. This event marked the largest number of executions carried out by the state in a single day up to that point. Three were convicted of a murder committed in Ashley County, while the fourth was executed for two murders committed in Stone County. Ira Culp, a farmer near Wilmot (Ashley County), was murdered on the night of May 11, 1922. On the night of the murder, a group of horseback men from Bonita, Morehouse Parish, Louisiana, approached the Culp home. (Bonita is approximately seven miles south of the Arkansas state line.) While the motive for the crime is unclear, it is apparent that the men knew Culp, …