Craighead County Jail Overloaded With Female Inmates

JULY 21, 2006 -- POSTED AT 9:30 P.M. CDT

CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, AR -- A lack of vacancies isn't something you might expect to hear from a jail, but that's exactly the case with female inmates in Craighead County. As of Friday, the jail is housing 42 female inmates, with the capacity to only hold 24.

"For the past few years, female arrests have just continued to go up and that's just part of it. The judge has sentenced some to some lengthy jail terms," says Sheriff Jack McCann.

But why now, is this uncommon?

"Years ago, it was rare to ever arrest a female. Now, it's an everyday thing. It's just as common as arresting men now," says Sheriff McCann.

What about the charges these women are in for?

"A lot of them would be drug or drug-related charges, hot checks or whatever. We had several that were here for contempt of court non-payment of fines," says Sheriff McCann.

McCann says the majority of the females are in for misdemeanor charges. Ten women were released Friday to decrease the number of current female inmates they were being held for not paying fines. The judge released them if they were able to pay a certain amount, but releasing inmates seems like a dangerous solution to overcrowding.

"We didn't release anybody that was dangerous or anybody that was here on any kind of violent charge or anything like that," says Sheriff McCann.

Although the jail is currently over capacity, Sheriff McCann doesn't want people to be misled. He says the number of arrests won't decrease as a result.

"This is not the first time this has happened. Everything goes in cycles. Right now we're in a high cycle. Probably within the next few weeks or months, it will go back down," says Sheriff McCann.

For that reason, McCann says he doesn't see the need to expand for overcrowding just yet.

"If it ever got to the point where we had to release violent offenders or people charged with serious crimes, then yeah start the construction tomorrow, but if it's the situation we're in now, where it's just people that owe, then I don't think anybody can justify adding on for that," says Sheriff McCann.

Sheriff McCann did say that although they aren't currently asking to expand the female inmate housing, within the next few months, they will be presenting the quorum court with the need to expand the booking department inside the jail.