Attorney General candidates weigh in on crime, prisons and abortion
Republican Tim Griffin says he will push for tougher guidelines and a revamped parole system to tackle rising crime if elected Arkansas attorney general, while Democratic opponent Jessie Gibson wants to reduce recidivism rates to free up space in prison.
Griffin, the current lieutenant governor of Arkansas, and Gibson, a lawyer from Little Rock, will face each other in the Nov. 8 general election. Early voting begins October 24.
Griffin, 53, defeated Leon Jones Jr. in the May 24 Republican primary after initially announcing he would run to succeed Governor Asa Hutchinson. Griffin dropped out of the governor’s race and filed for attorney general after Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders – the daughter of former Governor Mike Huckabee and former press secretary to former President Donald Trump – announced her candidacy for the highest office in the state. .
“I’ve been elected for 12 years now, and I’ve served by working hard and doing what I said I was going to do, showing integrity and being a good steward of money. taxpayers,” Griffin said. “I cut my budget and downsized my staff my first year in the Lieutenant Governor’s office and haven’t asked for more since. I will bring the same approach to the Attorney General’s office.”
Griffin, of Little Rock, said his experience as a lieutenant governor, a former congressman representing the 2nd District and a former U.S. attorney separates him from Gibson.
“I have experience with different parts of government as a legislator and congressman and in legislative roles as president of the Senate,” he said. “I’ve been in the military and can give my perspective on the National Guard. I also have experience with the federal and state governments, and many state governments deal with the government federal.”
Gibson, 48, said he believed a Democrat could win a statewide race in Arkansas, which has been dominated by Republicans for several years.
“I would say as a state we are more of a non-participating state than a Republican state,” he said. “We’re last in the country in almost every voting metric. There are over 1.1 million Arkansans who just aren’t going to the polls. We need to give them a vision for the future and a vision for something better than what we have.”
Gibson said too many elected officials want to insert their politics and beliefs into the legislative process and that’s how bad politics and bad laws are created.
“That’s the difference between my opponent and me,” Gibson said. “I view the Attorney General’s office as an office of right and wrong, not a political twist. If you’re a political hammer, then everything looks like a political nail. Let’s avoid that as an Attorney General.”
Gibson said if elected, he would stand shoulder to shoulder with law enforcement in an effort to stop rising violent crime in Arkansas.
“It’s extremely important to always lead the charge against violent crime,” he said. “Having said that, what Arkansas really suffers from is our recidivism and recidivism problem.”
Gibson said the state must take ending recidivism seriously.
“What we’re doing right now is getting people through the system and putting them back on the streets to re-offend,” he said. “We have to do the hard things in education and vocational training [for prisoners] so when people get out, they can become productive, tax-paying citizens again. »
Griffin said his first priority if elected would be to reform the state’s criminal justice system.
“First, I recognize that much of the spike in crime we are experiencing as a state – not just in Little Rock, but across the state – is attributable to violence committed by violent repeat offenders. “, did he declare. “A significant number of whom are parolees who should never have been on parole in the first place.”
Griffin also wants to create a “GI Bill” for law enforcement to ensure they are properly compensated.
“A GI Bill is a federal program through which individuals who serve earn education credits for themselves and their families. I want this for law enforcement,” he said. “If you commit to a certain number of years in law enforcement, you get credits in education.
“This will help law enforcement officers and their families financially, and help create the best-trained and best-prepared law enforcement agencies.”
Griffin said he would also support auditing prison programs to check their effectiveness.
“We want [felons] to get out and thrive,” he said. “Ultimately, those who come out of this come to a neighborhood near you and me, and we want them to thrive and build a career.
Griffin said violent offenders only serve a fraction of their sentence due to a lack of available prison beds, which leads to an increase in murders, rapes and other violent crimes.
“In terms of how you approach this, first and foremost we need to make more room in the state prison system,” he said. “For those who don’t want to expand prisons for whatever reason, I tell them that we’ve expanded prisons before, but the state did it quietly without public discourse and without real debate or discussion. That’s because ‘they’ve filled all of our county jails.
If elected, Griffin said, he intends to work with lawmakers to get a new prison built.
“I’m also going to let our legislators know to put meat on their bones when it comes to sentencing,” he said. “We need to ensure that individuals serve a higher percentage of time for violent crimes.”
Gibson agrees that a new prison be built.
“The head of the Department of Corrections and the heads of all these other agencies are asking for it because it’s necessary,” he said. “I support the expansion of prisons. However, we also need to do these other things, like education and job training.”
Gibson said building a new prison is a short-term solution.
“If you’re not focusing on the demand-side problem or the solution by reducing the number of people going to the Department of Corrections, then you’re dealing with the supply-side solution of adding more beds,” he said.
After the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year overturned the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge implemented a 2019 “trigger law” that banned abortion in Arkansas except to save the life of the mother in the event of a medical emergency.
Law 180 of 2019 was designed to go into effect when the state’s attorney general certified that Roe had been overturned, returning the state’s power to ban abortion.
Gibson said the only thing he hears on the campaign trail, wherever he goes, is contempt for the abortion ban.
“They are furious that our lawmakers, our leaders in this state, have passed triggering legislation that creates government-enforced forced pregnancy even for victims of rape and incest,” Gibson said. “People think it’s just inhumane that we would go this far as a state to have a government mandated forced pregnancy that sometimes even affects children.”
Griffin said he had always been an opponent of abortion, but also believed in exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
Griffin said he opposes the recreational marijuana amendment because he thinks it will hurt recruiting.
“How can we compete for these jobs and at the same time have more people smoking weed,” he said.
Griffin said from what he’s seen, it doesn’t seem like people who want to smoke marijuana are having trouble finding it.
Gibson said that as attorney general he should be enforcing existing law, but as a politician he thinks allowing recreational marijuana is the direction the country is headed.
“One of the biggest problems we have, I see, is that there are too many leaders who are revisionists, who look back to a time that they claim to remember or that they imagined or believed that existed instead of looking to the future,” he said. “I think that’s the direction the country is going, and when it comes to budgeting, when it comes to developing education programs and health programs, I think it would be wise to consider the merits of that.”
Gibson said legalizing marijuana would also free up law enforcement officers.
“This will allow for a greater focus on violent crime rather than non-violent petty crime,” he said. “It frees up resources and allows them to really fight crime and have safe streets and schools.”