Corrections Board member mired in scandal can do as he wants–and that’s a big problem
5 min read

Corrections Board member mired in scandal can do as he wants–and that’s a big problem

Law & Order
Feb 29
5 min read

This article is Part 7 of an ongoing series called #ARCorrectionsCrisis, which focuses on the dysfunction of the Arkansas Board of Corrections. We intend to track their actions and educate the public about their conduct until they finally prioritize Arkansas crime victims and the safety of our communities above their own power.

News resurfaced last week about long-standing, serious allegations of Corrections Board member Alonza Jiles and his knowledge about child abuse occurring at a youth treatment facility where he served in a variety of leadership capacities. The renewed attention on these stories was sparked by a high-quality piece by Samantha Boyd of KARK, which featured Senator Ben Gilmore calling for Jiles to resign.

Gilmore’s initial call has since snowballed, with more than a half dozen state legislators, the attorney general, and the governor all joining in the chorus.

But ultimately, as a member of the Board of Corrections, Jiles–no matter how serious the allegations–controls his own destiny. And that’s a big problem.


According to news reports:

“Since November, 52 former residents of the now-closed Lord's Ranch have filed a total of five lawsuits against Jiles and other staff members, claiming they were abused during their time at the site. Jiles, who is described in complaints as a ‘senior director of the Lord's Ranch Entities and facilities’ and serving as ‘administrative director at its primary facility located in Warm Springs,’ is a defendant in each of the cases.”

The allegations are exceptionally serious: 

"Men and women who owned, operated and staffed the facility preyed on and abused the children housed on the remote facility in Warm Springs, Arkansas routinely and systematically," one complaint states. "The systematic and widespread abuse included premeditated sexual abuse and child rape, often under threat of force; extreme physical violence and abuse resulting in serious injuries such as broken bones; and psychological manipulation and torment, such as isolation closets and straitjackets. The facility and its agents also engaged in concerted efforts to cover-up and conceal allegations of abuse."

Jiles was allegedly a partner to these cover ups.

But that’s not all: one plaintiff is also alleging that Jiles officiated a wedding between her and her abuser when she was just 18. The abuse is reported to have began when she was 15. The suit claims that the individual, a young lady, was forced to marry her abuser “without her parents’ knowledge, consent or presence.”

Jiles is also accused of breaking a resident’s arm in 2002 while administering a “restraint hold.”

The allegations have been public since late last year but have largely flown under the radar – that is until now, thanks to a growing group of state officials who are forcing the issue.


Since the allegations against Jiles resurfaced in the state media last week, calls from state officials for Jiles to resign have been snowballing. In fact, the calls for Jiles to resign are now bipartisan.

Sen. Ben Gilmore, who started the snowball, did not mince words:

“The allegations are vivid. They’re disturbing, they’re horrific. It happened under Mr. Jiles’ watch, and as such he should step down from the board...It doesn’t matter who the person is, how they’re voting, what party appointed them, they should do the right thing...If they have these kinds of allegations against them, they should step down.”

Governor Sarah Sanders, Attorney General Tim Griffin, and roughly half a dozen other state lawmakers have also called for Jiles to step down.

These state leaders, on both sides of the aisle, deserve kudos or stepping up in this way and we certainly hope Jiles does the right thing and resigns.

But ultimately, there’s nothing the people’s elected officials can really do to force Jiles’s hand–and that's a problem.


Even with the growing number of state officials requesting that Jiles resign, Jiles is digging in and clearly has no intention of resigning. In a statement released this evening, Jiles called the allegations “baseless" and "false."

But here's the fundamental problem: even if Jiles is proven guilty of all of the alleged offenses, no out outside of himself or the Board of Corrections can force him out.

Here’s what Amendment 33 of the Arkansas Constitution–which Jiles is now openly hiding behind–says:

“The Governor shall have the power to remove any member of such boards or commissions before the expiration of his term for cause only, after notice and hearing. Such removal shall become effective only when approved in writing by a majority of the total number of the board or commission, but without the right to vote by the member removed or by his successor, which action shall be filed with the Secretary of State together with a complete record of the proceedings at the hearing.”

In other words, a member of the Board can only be removed by the governor so long as a majority of the Board of Corrections agrees. They are self-governing and effectively unaccountable.

So even if Jiles is found guilty of the alleged crimes and more, he can only be removed from the Board if he or a majority of the Board of Corrections agree.


State policymakers need to get serious–and fast–about creating real accountability for this unaccountable bureaucracy. With excessively long terms, no term limits, and no real oversight from any elected officials, Board members can behave however they want without any consequences, as Mr. Jiles is demonstrating.

Some ideas policymakers should consider:

  • Instituting term limits for board members;
  • Shortening board terms, down from seven years to 3;
  • Infusing transparency into Board meetings through mandatory live-streaming and other means; and
  • Creating a real removal process for Board members.

Or just eliminate this archaic, unnecessary board altogether.

The Jiles scandal underscores a fundamental problem with the Corrections Board: it isn’t accountable to anyone. Not the governor, not the taxpayers, and not even state legislators. And that is a big, big problem that must be addressed sooner rather than later.

Image of the story authorNicholas Horton
Founder & CEO

Nic Horton is a native Arkansan and Founder & CEO of Opportunity Arkansas. He has spent more than a decade in the conservative movement as an expert on election, disability, tax, welfare, and workforce reform.

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Image of the story authorRachael Slobodien
Communications Director

Rachael Slobodien is an accomplished communications and policy professional with experience serving in senior roles at the White House, on Capitol Hill, and at some of the Nation’s most influential political and advocacy organizations.

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