POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - County jails across the Region 8 viewing area have reported larger numbers of inmates being held since the beginning of the year. According to the log at the Randolph County Jail, 337 people have been cited for some type of crime from January 1 - April 10th, 2009. More than 690 people were locked up in 2008. Randolph County is on pace to house 1,011 by the end of the year.
"I'd say probably several months ago before the first of the year we've seen a steady increase in numbers where we now average somewhere between 35 and 40 inmates," said Sheriff Gary Tribble.
Tribble said the jail averaged 20-25 inmates at any given time in 2008. As of Friday night, the jail was holding 35 inmates. Its recommended holding capacity is 34.
Tribble said it's difficult to pinpoint a reason somebody is put in jail; however, he said the economy seems to be to blame in some cases.
"I think there's a variable of different reasons that may have resulted in an increase in the number of inmates. I think one of them may be on the basis as part of the economy," said Tribble.
According to the numbers, more people were accused of theft, robbery, non-payment of fines and failure to pay child support so far this year compared to last.
Tribble said the judicial system doesn't always work. The judge will sometimes offer a person a payment plan if they can't pay their fines immediately.
"I've seen where the effects of needing to house inmates as a result of fines, our judicial system, our judicial officers, our judges, they do work well with people in relation to fines and costs. They try to do some things like payment agreements and that kind of thing to try to avoid housing if at all possible," said Tribble.
Tribble said economics can also tie into the type of criminal activity involved. If a person is at a point of desperation, then they may take drastic action to make ends meet.
"I believe our area has been affected by the economy, a lack of employment," said Tribble.
In some instances, a person will turn to drugs to take the edge off of losing a job, family member or other issue of importance.
"I don't think we're unique in the area. I think that's throughout the state," said Tribble. "We have some that are charged with murder. We have some that are being held on child support, some on being a court offender and it ranges from misdemeanor to felony related offenses."
Tribble said some inmates have turned to drugs.
"I think it has worked hand in hand with one another," said Tribble. "Although we have a concern of all illicit drug activity, I would say that methamphetamine has probably affected our area the most."
Other jails have reported increases in the number of inmates.
Craighead County Sheriff Jack McCann said his system is above average. The jail can house 420 people without having problems. McCann said approximately 360 have been staying in the jail over the last several days.
In Poinsett County, the jail has reported lower totals. According to Sheriff Larry Mills, the jail is holding more than 50 inmates, but it can hold 120 people without being overcrowded. Last summer, the jail held a maximum of 140.
If a jail has to hold more inmates than their capacity, then it has to find alternative housing at other county jails.