Arkansas Governor Nominates New Corrections Head After Fight Over Prison Authority

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday nominated a new corrections secretary after her first pick for the job was fired by a state panel amid a feud over who runs the state prison system.

Sanders nominated Lindsay Wallace, who has served as chief of staff at the Department of Corrections since 2020, to lead the department. The appointment must be confirmed by the state Board of Corrections. Sanders said she had talked with the board's chairman and each member about the appointment.

“I know that Lindsay has the experience to lead the Department and will work diligently to expand prison capacity and end the failed policy of catch and early release,” Sanders said in a statement.

Joe Profiri, who Sanders had named secretary last year, was fired in January after a state judge blocked a law that took away the panel’s ability to hire and fire the secretary and gave it to the governor. Sanders hired Profiri to serve as a senior advisor to her in the governor’s office, and a spokeswoman said he will remain on the governor's staff.

Wallace's nomination comes after former state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, who the board had hired as interim secretary, stepped down from the position after serving a week.

Board Chairman Benny Magness said the panel would take action on the nomination as soon as they can all gather for a meeting.

“I appreciate Governor Sanders taking the time to meet with me yesterday and for the nomination of Lindsay Wallace as Secretary of the Department of Corrections," Magness said in a statement.

Sanders' meeting with the chairman and board members comes nearly three months after she publicly criticized the panel for not moving forward with with proposal to open more temporary prison beds. Arkansas' prison system is exceeding its capacity, and there's a backlog of state inmates being held in county jails.

Members of the panel have expressed concerns about opening additional beds without enough staff.

Wallace has worked for the state since 2007, when she worked for the Department of Human Services. She later moved to the legal section of the Arkansas Sentencing Commission and worked there for 10 years before joining the Department of Corrections.

“I am committed to working with all stakeholders, the Governor, the legislature, and Board of Corrections to ensure we fix our corrections system," Wallace said. "I’m glad the Governor has put her trust in me to do so.”