Community service changes at jail to affect trash, recycling pickup

The sheriff says the changes made at the jail are to put it into compliance with jail standards and for safety. (Source: KAIT)
The sheriff says the changes made at the jail are to put it into compliance with jail standards and for safety. (Source: KAIT)

INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Recent policy changes at the Independence County Detention Center are expected to impact the county's trash and recycling programs, which have historically relied on inmates working community service.

County Judge Robert Griffin said that for years, the county has used eight community service workers for garbage pickup and 13 for recycling to cut down the county's costs.

"The main need on recycling is at the center to sort and do the things to get rid of the recycling when it comes in and for the routes, we need at least one on each truck also," Griffin said.

But a shift in policy at the jail has changed that plan.

"In the past month or month and a half, we have been deficient quite a bit but it hit critical mass on Monday morning before the Quorum Court meeting when we only received three or four when we need 21," Griffin said.

Independence County Sheriff Shawn Stephens said previously there were more than the allowed amount of inmates kept in the community service barracks, which sleeps only eight people.

"In the past, we've been written up on jail inspections for having too many inmates in one unit and had inmates sleeping on the floor," Stephens said. "That's not fair to them. So we're looking at their safety, their well-being, and keeping us out of hot water you could say with jail standards."

So from now on, there will only be eight inmates in the community service unit.

The sheriff has also made it a policy that they are the only ones allowed to work outside the jail.

He said that is a safety measure because their housing unit is separate from everyone else.

There have been incidents when contraband, such as shanks, drugs, and tobacco, have been smuggled into the jail.

If it is with an inmate that is in the general misdemeanor population, it can be passed around.

"If they're going to manage to sneak it in the jail it's better to keep it contained to one unit rather than it being spread throughout the entire jail," Stephens said.

Judge Griffin suggested that since there are currently no female inmates being housed in Independence County due to a jailer shortage, that area should be used to house other inmates available for community service.

But the sheriff said they hope to soon have enough guards to keep female inmates again. Until then, though, they have also been renovating that unit.

Now, Judge Griffin said they will work to transition to a new side-arm garbage truck sooner than planned because it requires fewer workers.

They would still need more workers than available for recycling, though, so it might require hiring more county workers.

"Currently no city in Independence County pays us for recycling and if you do that you're going to add cost and that's going to be passed on somewhere," Griffin said.

The Quorum Court is expected to further discuss this issue at a later meeting.

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