Quick Fix for Greene County Jail Won't Solve Problems

February 14, 2007 - Posted at 6:01 p.m. CST

GREENE COUNTY, AR -- Overcrowding at the Greene County jail has been an on-going problem - now the county may have a fix.  Voters in November turned down a $6 million dollar request for a jail expansion.  County leaders have been working on finding a way to pay for more space for prisoners and the plan they have may work - at least temporarily.

It's not what they wanted - but it will have to do. It will take $6 million dollars to overhaul the jail - but instead, Greene County authorities will have to settle for $250,000.

"Basically it's just a quick fix at this time," said Greene County Sheriff Dan Langston.

After being turned down in November by Greene County taxpayers for a major expansion of the jail, Sheriff Langston now has to settle for a consolation prize.

"It's probably going to max out at about 54 people," said Langston.

The new expansion will be built on where the current male exercise area is located. The 3200 square foot project will cost a little under $250,000 and only needs approval by the state to move forward. It's a project the sheriff feels is long overdue.

"It was built originally in 94 for 72 male and 12 female at this time we have 120 in it today," said Langston.

According to jail administrator Ron Harvey there are often times more than that.  He feels the expansion is nothing more than a short term solution.

"I think it will be maxed out by the time it is open and I think we will be in the same position we were in before this came about but it will give us some leeway," said Harvey.

While the new jail expansion should help with overcrowding it won't help with understaffing at some points their are as few at three jail workers to cover more than 150 inmates.

"Actually in my opinion we need security first and security comes with more people," said Harvey. So for now the jail staff will be forced to continue status quo for at least a year.

"With this unit coming on now they are hoping it could be available maybe by the end of the year, new employees coming in will be on the 2008 budget," said Harvey.

The money for the project will be paid for by the county and will not result in any new taxes. For those who work at the jail - this new plan will have to do.

"Basically this is the only plan that is feasible at this time because of the economics here in Greene County," said Langston.

To help keep the cost down the county plans to use county workers and a number of inmates who are on the 309 work release program to build parts of the new expansion.