The W.C. “Dub” Brassell Adult Detention Center is feeling the impact of jail overcrowding caused by a backup of state prisoners.
Jefferson County Chief Deputy Sheriff and jail administrator Greg Bolin said Friday morning the jail housed 344 prisoners, with about 90 of them either waiting for beds in a state prison or being held for parole or probation violations for the Arkansas Department of Community Corrections.
The regular capacity of the adult jail is 316, and Bolin said he and jail Capt. Ed Adams have been doing everything they can to cut the numbers down.
“We’re releasing as many of the people arrested for misdemeanors as we can,” Bolin said. “We get them booked, give them a date to appear in court and send them out the door so we can have room for the felonies.”
Adams said the overcrowding has been an almost daily thing since Mothers Day 2013.
“The high so far is 373,” Adams said.
The Arkansas Sheriff’s Association has asked legislators to consider a special session to consider the problem, and according to Ronnie Baldwin, executive director of the association, there are more than 2,714 state inmates who are currently being held in county jails.
The association wants the legislature to authorize one-time funding for the Department of Corrections to contract with third parties to house state inmates through the end of the next fiscal year and to place a cap on how many state prisoners could be housed in county jails at 1,600.
Not only is the overcrowding a safety hazard, Bolin said it is responsible for increasing costs at the jail.
“I signed one grocery bill for $35,000 last month,” Bolin said. “Our total grocery bill runs between $40,000 and $50,000 every month.”
Contrary to the idea that prisoners are fed bologna or other quick food items, Bolin said the jail has to meet state standards in terms of daily calorie intake.
“It’s also a management tool,” he said. “The better people are fed, the less likely they are to get angry and try to start something.”
Currently, the state pays counties $28 per day for every inmate housed in a county jail, while an ordinance adopted by the Jefferson County Quorum Court sets the daily rate for prisoners at $58.75.
“This low prisoner reimbursement rate costs counties an excessive amount and actually pulls funds from other needed resources,” Chris Villines, executive director of the Arkansas Association of C0unties said.
“The state really needs to do something quick or we’re going to stay overcrowded and that creates a real possibility that someone is going to get hurt in jail,” Bolin said.
On Thursday State Senate President Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville told the Arkansas News Bureau “he wasn’t inclined to support taking up jail and prison overcrowding in a special legislative session this year.”