Money Available for Prison Upgrades

May 14, 2003
Posted at: 5:10 p.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- State prison officials are scrambling to open new prison space now that they have the money to use them.

That includes a new prison in Malvern and new beds at existing prisons. The space has been empty since there was no money to hire and train staff to oversee prisoners there. But the new state budget provides $14 million to open new beds in the next fiscal year and $19 million for the following years.

Officials hope it will relieve overcrowding at county jails, where state inmates are housed when there is no room in state prisons. Correction spokeswoman Dina Tyler says beginning in July, the 316-bed prison at Malvern will open as will 156 new beds at the Varner Unit and 400 new beds at the Grimes Unit in Newport.

The beds have been ready since January but sitting empty for lack of funds.

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