County dealing with full detention center

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - There's one thing officers with the Craighead County Detention Center would like less of, and that would be inmates.

Overcrowding is a problem in jails across the state of Arkansas.

We spoke to Craighead County Jail Administrator Keith Bowers to see if they're experiencing any issues.

"We are near capacity here at the jail," Bowers said. "The unpredictability of jail capacity makes it hard to plan for something like this. One thing that is predictable, the start of summer usually shows an increase in inmate volume."

Bowers said one problem is they have more felony prisoners than they have room.

"One reason we are so full is the increase of felony prisoners," Bowers said. "And the thing is, the more felony inmates you have cuts down on the amount of misdemeanor inmates you're able to house. Our male pod unit right now is full. That's where the biggest part of our felony prisoners stay. So, when we get more of those prisoners in we have to overflow into our misdemeanor unit. And each time you transfer a felony prisoner over to the misdemeanor unit, that reduces the amount of misdemeanor prisoners that you can take. Misdemeanor beds are being taken up by felony beds."

Bowers said the detention center consists of three sections.

"We have three units, which is three separate cell blocks," Bowers said. "We have been keeping two cell blocks of fifty beds a piece solely meant for misdemeanors. So, we've had to combine two of those for felony prisoners only. And so, that leaves us only one unit left for misdemeanors, which is fifty beds. And that fills up pretty quick. Between Craighead County, SO, Jonesboro PD and then all the other departments within the county, those beds fill up quick."

Bowers said, for now, they're having to turn away misdemeanor inmates to keep those charged with harsher crimes in.

"We have basically put a hold on taking any inmates that are misdemeanor charges," Bowers said. "With the exception, of course, of domestic charges that result from violence. We will take those prisoners in and we will try to find a way to house them some way."

Bowers said when they're full, it affects the community.

"The impact in the community is such that when the different police departments around the county make a misdemeanor arrest, the only solution that we have for them is to cite them and give them a court date. We can't accept them into jail when we're full. That's quite an impact to the community."

But the impact doesn't stop there.

Bowers said it also affects surrounding communities.

"Most jails are in the same shape we're in," Bowers said. "Most jails in the surrounding counties are not as large as we are. Most of them stay brimming full and actually have to call us sometimes to try and help them out with their prisoners. So, that's an impact to the surrounding counties. If they call us wanting help holding their prisoners, we're unable to do so."

Bowers said what they need most, right now, is the communities support.

"I think a lot of it would be understanding," Bowers said. "Understanding the situation that we're in. That we're unable to house a lot of the misdemeanor prisoners and understanding the situation that we're in."

The Craighead County Detention Center has around 440 inmates.

Bowers said one thing that might help the situation would be looking into expansion.

In the meantime, he said they plan on making sure prisoners charged with felonies and other violent crimes stay behind bars.

Copyright 2017 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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