Durrett seeks re-election as district attorney; cite experience, challenges

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Matt Durrett filed Wednesday in Little Rock for a third term as a prosecutor in the 4th Judicial District, Washington and Madison counties.

Durrett, 48, said he wanted to use the experience and knowledge he gained in 23 years working in the prosecutor’s office, the last seven as an elected prosecutor, to help victims of crime and protect the public from those who would do harm.

“I can’t wait to get out there and talk to people about why experience in this job is so important. We have a lot of serious cases. We have a lot of homicides,” Durrett said. “We must do all we can to ensure that those who attack other people are held accountable. Over the past seven years, we have focused on protecting victims, focusing on the violent crime.”

A native of West Memphis, Durrett earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. After graduating from law school in 1998, he was hired as an assistant prosecutor by then prosecutor Terry Jones. He was promoted to first deputy prosecutor in 2004, then first deputy in 2007. He ran unopposed for the post of prosecutor in 2014.

Durrett said creating the National Child Protection Task Force out of his office was one of his greatest accomplishments. This group has evolved into an international group of experts focusing on child traffickers and missing persons cases, he said. They were able to bring a lot of resources not just to Washington and Madison counties, but across the country and to other parts of the world, he said.

Durrett has an opponent in the nonpartisan race, Stephen Coger. The election is May 24. Prosecutors earn $171,122 a year and serve four-year terms.

Durrett said a persistent problem is prison overcrowding. He sits as co-chair of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, which has looked into the matter.

“Over the past two years, I have worked with the Sheriff’s Office and Circuit Judges to try to identify people who can be safely released, who do not pose a threat to our community and do not threaten to miss their court date,” Durrett said. “We have worked a lot on this and it is one of the objectives of the coordination committee.”

The county is considering a multimillion-dollar prison expansion.

“We need space in the prison for people who are a danger to society. That’s the goal of our office,” Durrett said. “We are used to prosecuting violent criminals and have worked to establish a good relationship with law enforcement.”

Durrett said his staff were working to clear a backlog of cases caused by two years of the covid-19 pandemic. He said he has established a good working relationship with the Office of the Public Defender and his staff are working to identify people, in and out of jail, whose cases can be expedited.

“We are working on it. Last year we were able to process more cases than we filed, so we are making progress,” he said.

Durrett said the job isn’t just about solving cases; the goal is for these resolutions to be fair.

He added that illicit drugs are also a growing concern in the region, from methamphetamine and fentanyl to heroin and prescription drugs. Durrett said he supports and is committed to drug court programs in the area.

“Society is best served if you can put someone in a drug court program and get them off drugs and into being a contributing member of society,” he said. “We’re trying to get them back on track, I think that’s something very important.”

Durrett is currently a member of the Arkansas Crime Information Center Supervisory Board. He is a member of the Washington and Madison County Multidisciplinary Teams, which are groups of individuals from various agencies working together to respond to cases of child abuse and neglect. He represents the Arkansas Prosecuting Attorneys Association on the state’s Multidisciplinary Team Oversight Committee.

Durrett is part of the City of Fayetteville Joint Safety and Mental Health Task Force.

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