SHARP COUNTY, Ark. (KAIT) - The Sharp County Jail has been fortunate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with only one positive test among inmates since last year.
Despite this, they’re still feeling the effects of the pandemic.
When COVID-19 hit, the jail hadn’t been built. With a new jail and multiple vaccine options, the department is still dealing with the COVID effect.
Like many businesses today, finding workers is difficult during the pandemic. For Sheriff Mark Counts, it’s finding security workers.
“Finding people to work has been very difficult,” Counts said. “We still need some part-time workers to work.”
Counts said while the virus hasn’t impacted as many inmates, it has affected staff members.
“You’d have to pull them out of the rotation of working and [find] somebody to fill that spot,” Counts said. “In this day in time, it’s hard to find somebody that wants to work. So we had several shifts there that we had to fill.”
Navigating around the pandemic isn’t new for Sheriff Counts. When the pandemic started, 50 inmates were in the old 35-bed facility. Overcrowding was an issue, and the county had many conversations about potential early releases.
“It changed our world around,” Counts said. “That was one of the most difficult things trying to decide who you could release.”
The county did decide to release some people early, and the number of inmates got as low as 15 people last year.
Now, with a new jail, just over 40 are spaced out in a 100-bed facility, with no active cases.
Sheriff Counts says they still have COVID policies in place and are following ADH guidelines, adding they want to be sure the current rise in COVID cases in the state will not get to them.