Arkansas sheriffs plan legislative push to ease county jail overcrowding

Arkansas sheriffs plan legislative push to ease county jail overcrowding

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - At Monday night's quorum court meeting, Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd warned the quorum court that if the Arkansas Department of Correction didn't take back some of their prisoners by Friday, they'd have to shut the jail down to misdemeanor arrests again.

Boyd told Region 8 News on Wednesday that they have been able to rearrange things to create a bit more jail space. However, until the ADC relieves them of some of those felons, the sheriff says they're taking things day by day.

Boyd said the statewide problem has no immediate solution in sight. County jails across Arkansas are operating over capacity because of overcrowding at the Arkansas Department of Correction.

"We can't hold the inmates in our county jail that the county jail is actually designed for," Boyd said.

County jails, by law, must hold those felons with no idea of when they can send them to the Department of Correction.

"At the same time, they could call us tomorrow and say okay, you can bring x-number," he explained.

But that uncertainty on the state level trickles down to the county jails. Boyd said they must count their number of inmates daily to make sure they still have room.

Right now, they are holding 111 state inmates.

In August, a similar situation caused the jail to stop accepting misdemeanor arrests.

Though they came close to doing it again, Boyd said it's a problem sheriffs are used to by now.

"There's several counties in Arkansas that, over the past year and a half, have not accepted any misdemeanors. Period."

There are ideas out there to ease overcrowding at the ADC like the possibility of a new, 1,000 bed prison in the state. But Boyd said even that would take years to complete.

"We wouldn't see any immediate relief in that. Another idea is to start sending department of correction inmates out of state."

In the meantime, sheriffs from across the state are working to make their voices heard in Little Rock. In the next couple weeks, Boyd said the Sheriff's Association will deliver a packet to state legislators with a number of ADC inmates they say is feasible for county jails to hold.

Right now, there are 2,700 prisoners are waiting for bed space at the ADC. Boyd said the number they can work with is over a thousand less than that.

"If we could keep the number down around the 1600 figure, that's manageable for everybody."

Sheriff Boyd said people have asked him why there haven't been talks about an addition to the jail.

He said it wouldn't be smart to ask taxpayers to fund that as every jail in the state is dealing with overcrowding because of a lack of bed space at the ADC. He added that more beds would likely mean more ADC felons being kept at the jail.

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