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Arkansas Prisoners’ Community-Punishment Denied

Arkansas Prisoners’ Community-Punishment Denied

In 1997 Joseph Ritter entered a guilty plea to one count of rape and one count of kidnapping. He was sentenced in the Circuit Court of Searcy County, Arkansas, to consecutive sentences of 228 months and 114 months, respectively. The offenses occurred on February 6, 1996.

On October 21, 2011, Ritter filed a petition for declaratory judgment, pro se, against the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) claiming that his right to due process of law, in calculating his transfer-eligibility date, had been violated. He claimed that the Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-93-611 (Supp. 1995) (repealed 2011), does not require the prisoner to serve 70% of his sentence before being eligible for community-punishment placement. The circuit court denied the petition.

On appeal Ritter argued that pursuant to section16-93-611 (Supp. 1995) (repealed 2011), he is eligible for placement in the community after serving one-third or one-half of his sentence with credit for meritorious gain-time and that the 70% requirement is only applicable to parole determinations.

Ritter’s contention attempted to distinguish between community-punishment placement and parole. This argument did not include applicable law or court citations, other than the statute concerning parole eligibility.

In a 2013 decision, the Supreme Court of Arkansas held that this earlier version of section16-93-611 does not allow for community-punishment placement until 70% of the sentence is served. See: Anderson v. Hobbs, 2013 Ark. 354 (per curiam). While Ritter argued that, based on legislative intent, section 16-93-1301 should control his eligibility for community-punishment placement, not section 16-93-611, the Supreme Court of Arkansas disagreed.

The court in Ritter’s case did not determine whether he was eligible for community-punishment transfer but stated that section 16-93-611 controlled for calculation of his transfer-eligibility date. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court ruling. Ritter v. Hobbs, 2014 Ark. 68 (Ark. 2014).

Related legal cases

Ritter v. Hobbs

Anderson v. Hobbs