Arkansans Organizing 4 Justice
Frequently Asked Questions

We try to anticipate questions you might have about AOJ and provide the answers here. If you need additional information send an email using the Contact Us page.

1.

Do we have a specific system, process, or program in place to work on the Governor concerning pardons?  

No, AOJ is not working on pardons.  We are working on the parole/sentencing reform for life, life without parole and other long term sentences.


2.

How will we combat re-entry barriers?

A detailed re-entry plan is required as part of the parole process.  However, there are opportunities for AOJ to assist in providing more information to make this plan easier.  There is a group working to “ban the box” which advocates the elimination of the questions about past convictions on employment, housing, registered voter and social services applications.  This gives the newly “free world” people a second chance and clean slate to begin their lives over.  Furthermore, agencies such as Goodwill Industries and Salvation Army provide assistance in job hunting.  These groups along with education opportunities and halfway houses which teach life skills will be linked from the AOJ website in the very near future.


3.

How are we notifying inmates of AOJ’s progress?

We have built a very small network of people mandated with the responsibility of notifying key inmates in each unit via USPS or email.  These notifications are usually a newsletter or meeting flyer.  Each inmate is asked to pass along any information which is beneficial to their unit or barracks.


4.

What do you see as the most important part of completing AOJ’s goals?

In order the change the process, there must be a bill submitted to the General Assembly.  To get a bill, we must have a sponsor.  To get a sponsor, we must lobby each member of the AR house and senate through letters, emails, telephone, and face-to-face meetings.  This is absolutely the most critical part of the getting this movement off the ground.


5.

If someone donates to AOJ, how is the money spent and who oversees it?

At this point, AOJ has very limited funds to be spent on postage, inmate emails, newspaper ads, mileage, or other expenses.  There is NO member of AOJ taking a salary, and work has been performed at our own expense.  AOJ does not have a problem with a “transparent” spending policy to notify inmates, families, and friends with monthly, quarterly or annual actual spending vs receipts update.  As a non-profit, all donations are tax deductible, and as always, fundraising ideas are appreciated.


6.

How do we build support for AOJ?

As with most groups, we build support one person at a time by networking with  friends, family and acquaintances.  People who share similar views, answer questions, and participate or contribute help AOJ reach its goals.  There is power in numbers!  Much work needs to be done, but many of us are dedicated to seeing it through.  We are not about giving false hope to inmates.  Effective reform means recidivism has to decrease, inmates must be rehabilitated, and crimes rates must go down.  


7.

Does AOJ advocate for inmates who are sentenced under the 70% law (§16-93-618) or 100% law (§16-93-609)?

Yes.  AOJ is supporting a bill that will cause a review by the Parole Board that may allow for possible parole/release of any person sentenced under these statutes and others. AOJ must have a sponsor to introduce it to the legislature for enactment, and we need your support.


8.

What are the chances of getting this bill in front of the legislative session for 2015?

AOJ is working diligently to lobby the support of a sponsor – a senator or representative.  In order to do so, each of us must organize and send letters, emails, etc in support of this bill.  If we are successful, then the chances for this 2015 session are very good.  We need all the support and ideas we can get.


9.

Are there any class of offenders who AOJ does not advocate for?

No.  AOJ includes all offenders who are serving life, life without parole, and other long term sentences.


10.

When I talk to others about the mission of AOJ, they are concerned about the risk of possibly releasing violent offenders.  What is the risk to communities for release of these offenders?

Statistics show that people who serve decades in prison have one of the lowest recidivism rates of any other offender.  Those convicted of homicide had the lowest at less than 1%.  Based on these statistics and a good re-entry program, the risk to the communities of these offenders is relatively low.


11.

What is the difference between parole and clemency?

Parole is when a person becomes entitled to release after serving a specific amount of time on a sentence.  They may be denied parole (release), but certain constitutional protections attach, such as due process.  For instance, if a person is continually denied for the same reason (i.e. nature and seriousness of offense), then the parole issue may be challenged in a court of law.  Clemency, on the other hand, is strictly an act of mercy on the Governor’s behalf.  It is a totally standard-less process which means a person is not entitled to a hearing or reasons why they are denied.  Currently, clemency is the most unreliable and politically motivated process with regard to a meaningful opportunity for release.


12.

Is AOJ working on getting the clemency process out of the Governor’s hands?  

No.  According to the Arkansas Constitution, it the inalienable right/power of the Governor to grant/deny clemency requests.  It is an executive decision in which the Governor is chief.  However, AOJ is researching for a bill that will cause the Parole Board to disclose certain information to the inmate and his/her family.  Such as, defining the term “merit”, what information is considered during the Board’s investigation of the application, etc.


13.

How can I be updated on current events with AOJ?

This is the computer/electronic age.  It is not always feasible or economical to spend money on postage or gas to attend meetings.  We are able to be more effective in the exchange of information by submitting comments or questions through the website www.arkansansorganizing4justice.com on the Contact Us form.