Temporary fix found for overcrowding at Jackson County jail

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – Inmates have outnumbered beds for a number of years at the Jackson County Detention Center, but the sheriff is hoping a new system can ease some of the overcrowding concerns.

Sheriff David Lucas says his deputies have fitted nine non-violent offenders with ankle monitors. He explained that they are the "guinea pigs" of a two-week-old system aimed at alleviating overcrowding.

"The biggest thing for this jail is the overcrowding," Lucas said. "We're in a test phase to try and evaluate it to see how well things go, see how it works, if there's some things we need to change."

The non-violent inmates were screened before entering the ankle monitor program. They also earned authorization from the sheriff's department and the courts.

"It's $10 a day," Lucas said about the cost. "Right now, it's $10 a day that the offender has to pay."

Chief Deputy Charles Vaughn and two investigators can follow those fitted with an ankle monitor on their computers. The technology allows them to even see which room of the offender's house he or she is in. They also receive instant alerts via an email or text message if people go outside their restricted area.

"If it's a blatant violation, an intentional violation, then we'll go find them and pick them up and just bring them straight back to jail," Lucas explained.

Overcrowding problems have plagued the Jackson County jail over the years. The jail was built to house 26 inmates, but, recently, it averages between 40 and 45. The limited bed space has placed the county detention center on probation with the state jail review committee a number of times.

"Not only do you have a liability situation, you've got a safety concern not only for the staff but other inmates also," Lucas noted.

The sheriff commends his staff for shouldering the strain the crowded quarters have caused. He just hopes the ankle monitors can bring them some relief.

"It's not going to fix the overcrowding problem, but it does help," he concluded.

Lucas says he would like more offenders to join the nine others on the ankle monitoring system. He notes, however, that the ideal solution to inmate overcrowding is an expanded facility or a new jail.

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