Greene Co. "blue ribbon committee" evaluates jail problem

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) – Leaders in Greene County have been working the past few months to develop a solution to resolve issues with the current jail located on Mockingbird Road.

According to Dave Tierney, a 7 member committee has been reviewing the Greene County Jail and analyzing reports by the Arkansas Jail Standard's Committee. Tierney said the group, named the Greene County Blue Ribbon Jail Committee, has been looking at different jail systems to determine the future of the one in Paragould.

"I see them soon taking a potential solution to the quorum court. We have sent a notice to proceed to a group of consultants to start a needs analysis," said Tierney, who said he was appointed by Greene County Judge Jerry Shipman to coordinate the committee's efforts. "Without a question it is probably the number one problem we have right now."

In March, Sheriff Dan Langston, Shipman and members of the quorum court received a letter from the Jail Standard's Committee, warning the county to make improvements to the jail or risk a lawsuit to shut down the facility. At that time, the committee mentioned overcrowding and jail staffing as two of the biggest deficiencies.

"On September 3rd, they will potentially file a lawsuit with the attorney general to shut our facility down and that's going to be a problem," said Tierney. "Building an addition on to what we have is a viable option but coming up with a functional solution that meets the needs for the county both today and for the future is what this committee's work is about."

Tierney said the committee he's been coordinating with has a few options on the table; however, he reminds committee members to keep the future growth of Greene County in their minds.

"The potential option as you know range anywhere from shutting the facility down to tearing down what we have and building a totally new facility and everything in between," said Tierney. "We would be doing the county a disservice if we planned for what we needed today and didn't think about the potential growth. What is the potential growth 20-years from now, 30 years from now or even 15 years from now? Where are we going to be?"

The jail at one point had a set of blueprints for a new possible jail, but no formal movement was made, according to Tierney.

For the past two months, Rusty McMillon has been serving on the committee. He told Region 8 News Monday he's visited the jail in Paragould, as well as the Dunklin County Detention Center in Kennett. He said if he decides to recommend a new jail, the set up should be similar.

"We need to look at their safety as well, and if they're safety is in question with our current facility, and then there is a real need," said McMillon. "I saw a need for updating of our systems, video systems, electronic systems, and alarm systems, everything that is electronic that is out there is antiquated."

McMillon said a consultant company has been hired to develop a needs analysis. He said industry officials will examine the Greene County Jail and recommend changes.

"In my opinion, I really foresee a need for expansion of our current facility, if not a completely new facility altogether," said McMillon based information he has today. "I've been analyzing if there is a need for the county jail, for modifications, for something new to be built, just analyzing the problems that exist there now."

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