Paul Harrell, a contributor to National File, is an Arkansas Republican who has been active in the party since the 1960s. He says people should look behind Asa Hutchinson’s political facade and see the man behind it.
According to Harrell, Hutchinson took office in 2015 when crime worsened after Democratic Governor Mike Beebe implemented a public protection act in 2011. The measure only served as a political response to years of wasteful spending and budgeting that worsened crime. State Senator Jeremy Hutchinson, nephew of Asa Hutchinson, was one of Beebe’s most vocal supporters of the public protection legislation.
According to Harrell, Arkansas has the highest rate of violent crime and the fifth highest rate of property crime in the US, based on data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). However, the data do not reveal whether first-time offenders conduct more violent offenses than repeat offenders. In a time of need, Asa Hutchinson turned to his nephew, Jeremy Hutchinson, a state senator. This was the first step in a well-crafted political deception meant to keep voters focused on his words rather than his actions.
According to Harrell, assembling a task group is the first point for creating the illusion. State Senator Jeremy Hutchinson’s task team squandered thousands of dollars in public funds and the time of law enforcement professionals on “reforms” that accomplished little to solve the crime problem. The crime rate climbed steadily.
The status quo that weakens law enforcement eases parole eligibility and fails to address the state’s growing scarcity of jail capacity was maintained in 2017 by reform legislation introduced by Governor Hutchinson and his nephew, the state senator. The Correction Department used to collect 8% of the state budget before Governor Hutchinson entered office.
The Corrections budget saw no increases through the eight years of Governor Hutchinson’s term. According to Harrell, after you account for rising expenditures in the criminal justice system and the police force, those eight years of flat spending led to cuts in public safety. As a result, illegal activity increased partly because of the expectation of early release. Pretrial releasees who broke their parole agreements thought it would be a technical infraction rather than a return to jail.
According to Harrell, things got out of hand when repeat criminals committed crimes. Corruption became worse despite the Hutchinsons’ best efforts to give the perception of improvement.
When Asa Hutchinson promises to crack down on crime, the author reminds readers that he only plays politics. What occurred in Arkansas when he was governor will happen across the country: things will stay the same or worsen.
Harrell warns that the politician-turned-lawyer’s smooth words should be taken with a grain of salt. His use of catchphrases and buzzwords is a form of political illusion.