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Arkansas Department of Community Correction (ADCC)

The Arkansas Department 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 Department of Correction (ADC)

The Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) enforces the court-mandated sentences for people convicted of crimes at a variety of prison facilities located in twelve counties across the state. ADC’s central offices are in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). The first state penitentiary was built in 1839–40 in Little Rock (Pulaski County) at the site of what is now the Arkansas State Capitol. After legislation passed in 1899 calling for a new seat of government, it was relocated to a fifteen-acre site southwest of the city, explicitly to make room for the new capitol building. This second penitentiary was popularly known as “The Walls.” In 1902, the Cummins State Prison Farm was established in Lincoln County, and land was purchased in 1916 for the …

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). Prior to 1977, the functions of the laboratory were carried out by several state agencies, including the Arkansas Department of Health, the Arkansas …

Arkansas State Police

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, statewide law enforcement agency in Arkansas proved to be a difficult process, as many …

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, …

Rector, Elias

Elias Rector was appointed U.S. marshal for the Western District of Arkansas and Indian Territory and later served as superintendent of Indian Affairs. During the Civil War, he sought to make treaties with Native American tribes on behalf of the Confederacy. Rector was the subject of the poem “The Fine Arkansas Gentleman, Close to the Choctaw Line,” written by his friend Albert Pike. Elias Rector was born on September 28, 1802, in Fauquier County, Virginia. He was the youngest of nine sons born to Wharton Rector and Mary Vance Rector, who was a native of North Carolina. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Illinois, where Elias Rector spent the early part of his youth. The family relocated again, …

Reeves, Bass

Arkansas native Bass Reeves was one of the first black lawmen west of the Mississippi River. As one of the most respected lawmen working in Indian Territory, he achieved legendary status for the number of criminals he captured. Bass Reeves was born a slave in Crawford County in July 1838. His owners, the William S. Reeves family, moved to Grayson County, Texas, in 1846. During the Civil War, Bass became a fugitive slave and found refuge in Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma) amongst the Creek and Seminole Indians. Reeves is believed to have served with the irregular or regular Union Indians that fought in Indian Territory during the Civil War. After the Civil War, Reeves settled in Van Buren (Crawford County) …

Ruled by the Whip

Ruled by the Whip: Hell behind Bars in America’s Devil’s Island, the Arkansas Penitentiary is a 1958 self-published autobiographical account written by Dale Woodcock. One of the few printed accounts by an Arkansas prisoner, the book chronicles Woodcock’s experiences at Cummins prison farm in the 1950s. While the book garnered little attention when it was written, its tales of violence, corruption, and brutality corroborated abuses documented later during the governorship of Winthrop Rockefeller, who began work to reform the prisons. The author was born Charles Dale Woodcock on March 21, 1925, in Rogers (Benton County). He was the son of Henry Lee Woodcock (1900–1928) and Lillie Dell “Honey” Townsend Woodcock (1907–1988), both of whom were Arkansas natives. After the death …

Sarber, John Newton

John Newton Sarber was a Union soldier who remained in Arkansas after the Civil War and served in the state Senate, where he introduced a number of influential bills, including those creating the public school system and what is now the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). He also served as U.S. marshal of the U.S. Western District Court at Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Logan County was originally named Sarber County in his honor. John Newton Sarber was born on October 28, 1837, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Stephen and Lucille Sarber; he had one brother and two sisters. His mother died giving birth in 1849. The abolitionist family moved to Kansas Territory in 1855. Sarber and his father …

Scott, George Washington

George Washington Scott was Arkansas Territory’s first U.S. marshal, serving from 1820 to 1831, as well as the state’s first auditor and the first clerk of the Territorial General Assembly. However, his volatile personality negated many of his early accomplishments, and he died a violent death in almost total obscurity. George Washington Scott was born in June 1798 in Virginia. He was one of six children of Andrew and Elizabeth Scott; his older brother, Andrew Horatio Scott, was later appointed as one of the first judges of the Arkansas Territory Superior Court. The family was living near St. Louis in the new Louisiana Territory as early as 1805. In 1808, they moved to Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. By 1815, they were …

Scott, Ralph Downing, Sr.

Ralph Downing Scott Sr. had a long career in law enforcement and served as director of the Arkansas State Police during most of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller’s administration. In this capacity, Scott enacted many reforms to the Arkansas State Police that improved the professionalism of the department. Ralph Scott was born in McCaskill (Hempstead County) on February 2, 1914, to Burton L. Scott and Grace Bonner Scott. He was the oldest of the couple’s three sons and graduated in 1931 from high school in Prescott (Nevada County). He received a BA in chemistry from Hendrix College in 1935. In 1939, he received a Bachelor of Commercial Science in accounting from Southeastern University in Washington DC. Scott married Ruth Hirst in 1940, …

Taylor, Marion

Marion Taylor Jr. was the first African-American officer in the Arkansas State Police, serving as a public service spokesman and an instructor at the state police academy. Marion Taylor Jr. was born on January 18, 1940, in Dermott (Chicot County) to Marion Taylor Sr. and Bessie White Taylor. His father supported the family with employment at Missouri Pacific Hospital and Our Lady of Nazareth Nursing Home, and the family attended St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Little Rock (Pulaski County). A 1957 graduate of Horace Mann High School, Taylor earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock and an MS in education at what is now Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia (Clark County). Taylor served …

Thomas, Henry Andrew “Heck”

Henry Andrew “Heck” Thomas became one of the best-known officers of the law in Arkansas and Indian Territory (later Oklahoma). His reputation as a fearless crime fighter stemmed from a determination to bring felons to justice and from the notorious characters he encountered. Tall and lean, with dark eyes and a mustache, Thomas was the image of the frontier lawman, usually attired in knee-high boots, corduroy trousers, and a flannel shirt. Thomas, and others like him, helped combat frontier criminals in order to make the region safe for settlers. Heck Thomas was born on January 6, 1850, in Oxford, Georgia, the last child of twelve of Martha Ann Fullwood Bedell Thomas and Lovick Pierce Thomas. He acquired the nickname “Heck” …

Three Guardsmen

The Three Guardsmen were three U.S. marshals based in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) who became famous for their effort to track down the Doolin Gang, also known as the Wild Bunch, in Oklahoma in the early 1890s. When the three accomplished lawmen teamed up in 1891, they spent the next five years pursuing the group, finally capturing gang leader Bill Doolin in January 1896, only to have him escape from the Guthrie Federal Prison less than six months later. They tracked him down again, but refusing to surrender, Doolin was killed in a shootout on August 25, 1896. The leader of the Three Guardsmen was Henry Andrew “Heck” Thomas, who was born in 1850 in Athens, Georgia. Thomas was joined …

Tillman, John Arthur

John Arthur Tillman was the last person executed by hanging in the state of Arkansas. Accused of murdering a girlfriend, Tillman insisted upon his innocence to the day of his death. John Arthur Tillman was born in January 1891, the third oldest of nine children of John Franklin Tillman, a farmer and cattle breeder, and Lennie Belle Townsell Tillman of Delaware (Logan County). His arrest in 1913 was connected to the March 10 disappearance of Amanda Stephens, age nineteen, who lived north of Delaware. Friends and neighbors said that the two were “seeing each other,” and Stephens left behind a note pinned to her pillow suggesting that she was running away. According to later newspaper reports, she had told friends …

Triple Execution of 1997

A triple execution took place at the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction on January 8, 1997. The first two inmates to be executed, Paul Ruiz and Earl Van Denton, were convicted of murders perpetrated during a post-escape crime spree. Ruiz and Van Denton escaped together from an Oklahoma prison on June 23, 1977. Van Denton was serving a life sentence for murder, while Ruiz was serving life for armed robbery. The pair moved across Oklahoma and into Arkansas, committing a number of crimes. On June 29, near the town of Magazine (Logan County), the men kidnapped town marshal Marvin Ritchie and handcuffed him in the back seat of his patrol car. Driving the patrol car, the two …

Tucker Telephone

The “Tucker Telephone” was a torture device invented in Arkansas and regularly used at the Tucker State Prison Farm (now the Tucker Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction) in Jefferson County. It was likely used on inmates until the 1970s. The Tucker Telephone consisted of an old-fashioned crank telephone wired in sequence with two batteries. Electrodes coming from it were attached to a prisoner’s big toe and genitals. The electrical components of the phone were modified so that cranking the telephone sent an electric shock through the prisoner’s body. The device was reputedly constructed in the 1960s by, depending upon the source, a former trusty in the prison, a prison superintendent, or an inmate doctor; it was administered as …

Tucker Unit

aka: Tucker Prison Farm
Tucker Unit, often referred to simply as Tucker or Tucker prison farm, is a 4,500-acre maximum security prison and working farm located in Tucker (Jefferson County), roughly twenty-five miles northeast of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). It is one of thirteen prison units in the Arkansas Department of Correction. Tucker Unit is not to be confused with the Maximum Security Unit, which was built in 1983 and is also located in Tucker. Tucker is the second-oldest prison in Arkansas (Cummins Unit is the oldest). Tucker was accredited by the American Correctional Association in 1983, but for many years, the prison had a tarnished reputation and was at the center of the prison scandals of the 1960s and subsequent reform efforts of …

U.S. Marshals Service (USMS)

The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) is the oldest federal law enforcement agency in the nation. Divided into ninety-four districts, the agency’s structure aligns with that of the United States district courts. Arkansas has two districts—the Western District headquartered in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and the Eastern District headquartered in Little Rock (Pulaski County). During the nineteenth century, fugitives often fled to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) in an effort to escape prosecution. Apprehending these criminals was a dangerous assignment for the U.S. deputy marshals—consequently, there are more deputy and special deputy marshals buried in the Fort Smith region than anywhere else in the nation. On September 24, 1789, George Washington signed Senate Bill 1, which included the Judiciary Act, of which …

United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas

The United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas is the federal trial court of record for thirty-four counties in western, south-central, and north-central Arkansas. With headquarters in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and branches in Fayetteville (Washington County), Harrison (Boone County), Texarkana (Miller County), Hot Springs (Garland County), and El Dorado (Union County), the three judges and two magistrates of the Western District under Article III, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution exercise judicial power over “all cases in law and equity, arising under [the] constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made or which shall be made.” Generally, the Western District exercises power over two broadly defined types of civil cases: those that involve a …

Varner Unit

The Varner Unit is a detention facility run by the Arkansas Department of Correction. It is located in the Choctaw Township of Lincoln County, along U.S. Highway 65, about thirty miles south of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). The Varner Unit was constructed in response to the state’s fast-growing inmate population; other state facilities had been expanded prior to Varner’s construction. When it opened in 1987, it could accommodate 300 prisoners; its capacity was increased to 700 and then later to around 1,700. The Varner Unit is made up of two separate units: the Supermax Unit and the Varner Unit. The Supermax Unit was opened in 2000 and in 2003 became home to all the state’s male death row inmates. In …