Overcrowding at the W.C. “Dub” Brassell Adult Detention Center is being blamed for an increase of fights at the center, jail administrators said.
“The more overcrowded we are, the more we have escalations of problems,” Chief Deputy Sheriff and Jail Administrator Greg Bolin said Thursday.
Patricia Bryant, the mother of Quan Turner, who was being held at the jail before being transferred to state prison, sent a letter to The Commercial in mid-June saying that her son had been beaten by several detainees while he was housed in a misdemeanor pod. According to her letter, there were between 70 and 80 detainees in the pod, which is designed to hold 48 prisoners.
Bryant said her son had previously told jail personnel that he had enemies in that pod and Bolin said that because of the overcrowding, the jail doesn’t have as many options as they would have with fewer prisoners.
“We have one or two people who try to run a cell block and when we can determine who the troublemakers are, we try to move them out but with the number of people we’ve had, we couldn’t do that,” Bolin said.
Regarding Turner’s case, Bolin said he would not identify who his enemies were, and according to written reports from Jail Lt. Surrell DeBerry, who was the supervisor in charge when Turner was beaten June 11, Turner would not identify his alleged enemies to her when he was questioned about the beating.
Both Bolin and Jail Capt. Ed Adams said their policy is to move detainees who say they have enemies in a particular cell but Turner “wouldn’t give us any specifics and he was moved around to several pods because he said he had enemies.”
The letter from Bryant said Turner had “a swollen face, eyes shut almost closed and red, jaws and lips swollen terribly bad.”
The report from DeBerry said Turner “had blood on his mouth , nose and had a swollen right eye.”
Bolin said that Turner saw a nurse on duty at the jail and was placed in a holding cell in the booking area after the incident until being transferred to Department of Corrections.
In another recent case, a fight at the jail on June 16 left Paul Washington, 42, in critical condition in the hospital.
Since late last year, the jail, which is designed to house 316 people, has been holding between 350 and 260 people, a quarter of them being held while they wait for prison bed space or because of a parole or probation violation.
“You’ve heard about the Pulaski County jail being closed and basically we’ve been in the same situation,” Bolin said. “The law says the ranking officer on duty has the authority to release people arrested on misdemeanors and we’re doing that every day.
“We’ve also met with the administrative judge for the district (Circuit Judge Berlin C. Jones) and all the judges are reviewing their cases to see if there are some detainees that they can reduce the bond on to get more people out of here,” Bolin said. “We’ve also been meeting with the prosecutors and asking them to do the same thing.”
Bolin said he visits frequently with administrators of other jails across the state to see how they are handling the overcrowding at their facilities.
Early Friday morning the jail population was listed as 323, according to the jail log sent to The Commercial.
“The population is going back down, so we haven’t had any more serious problems,” Bolin said.
Regarding the prisoners being held for the Department of Corrections, help is on the way, as the Arkansas General Assembly, during a special session two weeks ago, approved money that will open up 600 new beds.
Prison spokeswoman Shea Wilson said in an email to The Commercial that the beds will be opened at the Northwest Arkansas Work Release Center, Quachita River Correctional Unit, McPherson Unit and the old training academy within the ADC. Also, the board of corrections is working out a contract with Pulaski County to use a building in Little Rock to house prisoners.
“We will begin opening beds over the next few weeks as staffing and other details are worked out and approved,” Wilson said. “The goal is to get this done as quickly as possible.”
The department is also looking at reopening the Old Diagnostic Unit at Pine Bluff to provide additional space for people being held on parole and probation violations but that won’t happen until the end of 2015, or early in 2016 because the department will have to go back to the legislature to get money for staff and operating costs for the facility.
“They (D.O.C.) have been doing their best to get people out of here as quickly as they could,” Bolin said.