Arkansas's highest court is the supreme court, consisting of a chief justice and six associate justices, elected for staggered eight-year terms. An appeals court of 12 judges, also elected for eight-year terms, was established in 1978.
Arkansas's courts of original jurisdiction are the circuit courts (law) and the chancery courts (equity), of which there are 24 circuits each. In 1999, there were 30 circuit court judges serving four-year terms and 33 chancery probate court judges serving six-year terms; an additional 43 judges were serving both circuit and chancery courts. Courts of limited jurisdiction include justice of the peace, county, municipal, and police courts, and courts of common pleas.
Arkansas had an FBI Crime Index rate of 4.132.2 per 100,000 population in 2001. The state's once notorious prisons, which had been under federal jurisdiction for more than a decade, were returned in 1978 to state authority, subject to monitoring by an independent ombudsman. By then, the decaying system of the 1960s had been almost entirely replaced by modern facilities. As of June 2001 there were 12,332 prisoners in state and federal correctional institutions, a 6.7% increase over the previous year. The incarceration rate stood at 455 per 100,000 inhabitants. Arkansas has a death penalty and has executed 24 prisoners since 1977. There were 42 persons under sentence of death in 2003.