NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) - The contract to begin construction on the new Jackson County jail was signed on Monday.
Jackson County Judge Jeff Phillips said the biggest reason for the new jail is overcrowding.
"The jail standards committee said our existing jail is not accurate for the amount of prisoners that we have," Phillips said. "The current jail has 27 beds. We average about 50 inmates or plus, which is an overcrowding issue."
The new jail will provide the county with 104 beds, which will help Sheriff David Lucas keep prisoners in custody.
"We're not able to keep inmates at all. I have to turn inmates loose daily. I can't hold them, which results in a loss of revenue from fines and everything else," Lucas said.
Sheriff Lucas said he is relieved to see his dream from when he took office in 2005 come to life.
"This has been a long, long battle for us. We've actually been trying to get a jail since 2005 and now that we are that close, you know, we're ready. I took an oath to protect citizens of Jackson County. Well the way things have been, I feel like I have been failing at that since I can't hold the prisoners. So the new jail is going to allow us to do that," Lucas said.
The project will cost the county nearly $9 million dollars and will be funded by a sales tax approved by voters.
Judge Phillips said he knows the amount of time the project took made some people anxious, but it was to make sure the county was being financially responsible.
"We're just excited to finally be able to get started, show the people that, you know, we are going to do this," Phillips said. "It's been a long time and I know there have been people who have been anxious, and so have we but it's important to know that we weren't going to start this jail until we could afford to start it. And now that we can, we are rearing to go."
Sheriff Lucas said the construction on the jail will begin soon and it is expected to be finished in mid to late July of 2016.