State Prisoner Back-Up Drops to Lowest Level Since 1998

MARCH 3, 2004 - Posted at 4:52 p.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - The state Board of Correction has decided to release 579 prisoners early, reducing the number of state inmates that county jails are holding to its lowest levels since 1998.

A spokeswoman says the decision will reduce the inmate backlog to about 300 prisoners.

At one point last year, county jails were holding more than 1,400 inmates for the state, a record number.  Spokeswoman Dina Tyler says that number dropped after the prison system opened about 700 new beds.

Tyler also pointed to drug courts and dutiful parole workers for lightening the burden on county jails.

As of today, the backup of state prisons in county jails was 504 inmates.  The state prison population today is 13,197.

A growing problem for the department is the number of female inmates.  Of the 504 prisoners in the current backlog, 114 are female and require separate housing.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)