Jailer shortage puts strain on departments' budgets - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Jailer shortage puts strain on departments' budgets

(Source: KAIT) (Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT) (Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT) (Source: KAIT)

A shortage of female guards at the Independence County Jail is putting a strain on the budgets for both the sheriff’s department and the Batesville Police Department.

Sheriff Shawn Stephens has said the low pay is the reason he can’t keep the jail at a full staff.

“We start them and top them at the same pay and they have to deal with people that threaten them, throws urine on them, throws feces on them,” Stephens said. “And that’s not a desirable job.”

Stephens recognizes that the $11.18 an hour they offer to jailers is not a competitive salary.

He said they often have problems keeping guards for both sexes but right now they are searching for three more female guards.

“We hired six and one of them came in and worked one day and never came back and two of them never showed up for the first day,” Stephens said.

Their hires are often leaving to go to other jails or prisons that can pay more.

Without any female guards, they can no longer house female inmates in Independence County.

Instead, the sheriff’s department must pay to house them in another county’s jail.

They have made agreements with Lawrence, Jackson, and Craighead County jails to transport inmates there when they have beds available.

“One county we're paying $45 and another county we're paying $35 a day,” Stephens said. “The money's not in our budget. We're having to cut our budget in other places to be able to house our inmates.”

And while the sheriff has to figure out where they will take these female inmates, his is not the only department feeling this strain.

“Until Judge Griffin and Sheriff Stephens figure out a solution we’re stuck in the middle,” said Batesville Police Chief Alan Cockrill.

The police department is paying to house inmates in the county jail, but if a woman is arrested right now, they have to transport her elsewhere.

Cockrill is concerned because it is taking officers away from patrol for sometimes two or three hours at a time.

“That's a lot of manpower off the streets of the City of Batesville, not to mention the fuel costs and the wear and tear on my vehicles, and all the other extra expenses,” Cockrill said.

The chief said those types of expenses were not factored into their budget this year, but there is not much the city can do right now.

Sheriff Stephens has formed a public safety committee comprised of quorum court members, Batesville City Council members, and county citizens.

He hopes they can come up with a solution to the problem.

The first meeting is Thursday at 1 p.m. in the District Court Room. 

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