Locking Down Funding for Greene County Detention Center

November 13, 2006 - Posted at 6:29 p.m. CST

GREENE COUNTY, AR -- 59% of the voters in Greene County said "no" to a tax increase to fund a jail expansion.  Now officials are back at square one trying to figure out how to pay for improvements.

The Greene County Detention Center was built in 1994 and designed to hold a total of 84 prisoners.  Now, one revision and a more than a decade later... the facility has nearly 150 inmates crammed inside its walls.  But more than 5200 voters disagreed when it boiled down to raising taxes for the facility.

Overcrowding, understaffing and a host of problems with the building plague the Greene County Detention Center.  Three jailers are on duty to guard a prison population that fluctuates between 140 and 170 inmates.

"We have problems with the heating and air, the electrical, also our lock system. We're having a lot of problems with that and cosmetically, we're coming apart," said Sheriff Dan Langston, "Basically it's going to have to be restructured."

To refurbish the jail would cost just under $1 million dollars but voters said "no" even after security was breached when three inmates escaped in October.

"I think we done well, putting together what we did and trying to work with what Greene County could afford, not what we want.  Sometimes we want a Cadillac and we get a Chevrolet, but that is just the way life is.  So I think we put together a good plan and the people spoke and they said we don't want taxes you know," said Judge Jesse Dollars.

Sheriff Langston doesn't believe that an expanded detention center will happen through individual effort, but rather through community support. He hopes to garner that support through community leaders such as the chamber of commerce, businesses, banks, school officials and even farmers.

"The consensus of what we put together in this committee and bring forth to the voters, I think it's going to have  a good chance because it's a group effort instead of a single effort, it will be a group effort," said Sheriff Langston.

The Greene County Detention Center was last updated in 1997.  The facility was modified to house up to 110 inmates, Monday's population is 149.