Hutchinson Announces Health Secretary Resignation, Correctional Program Expansion

During a media briefing Tuesday, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced the expansion of the Intensive Supervision Program to monitor high-risk offenders as well the resignation of Arkansas Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero, and Covid-19.

Hutchinson said the recent uptick in violent crime is “an issue that local authorities must deal with” but affirmed the state will help by expanding the Intensive Supervision Program (ISP). The decision to expand the program was made based on the recommendations of Arkansas Department of Corrections Secretary Solomon Graves and the Division of Community Correction.

The Division of Community Correction reinstated the ISP program in 2017 following the Power Ultra Lounge shooting in Little Rock. The program is currently comprised of four officers who monitor offenders in Pulaski County.

“There is a segment of our parole population that is high risk, they need a closer level of contact by our officers,” Secretary Graves said. “This ISP program will do that not just in Pulaski County, but in our communities that border our larger metropolitan areas.”

This new expansion will add ten ISP officers to the program to cover five counties including Lonoke, Jefferson, Faulkner, Saline and Pulaski.

The goal of the program is to provide a higher level of support, and supervision to those who pose a high risk of violent crimes.

“These are those that have spent time in prison released on parole, that are trying to get a second start in life, and we want to be able to help them to do that.” Hutchinson said. “But you have an element of those who pose a greater risk than others and that is the design of the ISP program that focuses on high-risk offenders.”

The ISP expansion will cost $1,091,585 to start and will then have an ongoing cost of $820,395 a year, which will need approval from the General Assembly. The Governor is hopeful they will support this expansion.

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Governor Hutchinson also announced the resignation of Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero. Hutchinson said Romero accepted a “high-level job” with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and will be resigning from the Arkansas Department of Health in May 2022.

Dr. Jose Romero

“We are grateful for his service, and I haven’t had a better partner through this pandemic, he has supported me and supported our state,” Hutchinson said of Dr. Romero. “While it’s a great loss to Arkansas he has developed a strong team in the Department of Health.”

Governor Hutchinson, First Lady Susan Hutchinson and Dr. Romero also received Covid-19 booster shots during the meeting, stating it is “the best protection against severe illness and to boost immunity to Covid-19.”

The FDA and CDC recently made a second booster shot available to certain populations, and recommend that those older than 50 and who are immunocompromised get the shot.

READ ALSO: Pulaski County Election Commissioner Resigns Due to Health Concerns

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