Overcrowding in jails across the state is the result of parole absconders being locked up, Chief Deputy Sheriff Greg Bolin said Thursday.
Bolin, the administrator of the W. C. “Dub” Brassell Adult Detention Center, was the guest speaker for the West Pine Bluff Rotary Club at the Pine Bluff Country Club.
He said that while the adult jail has a bed capacity of 316, when it reaches about the 280 mark “they’re really full,” because the remaining beds are for females.
“We’ve been running well over 300 since the first of August,” Bolin said. “What’s got us is parole violators being locked back up. We don’t get paid for them and they have overcrowded jails all over the state.”
At noon Thursday, the sheriff’s department website indicated the adult jail was holding 311 people.
A change in policy by the Department of Community Corrections has resulted in people who are accused of commiting new crimes while on parole being incarcerated until a hearing is held to determine whether they should be sent back to prison to complete their sentence.
Bolin said the increased population also has affected costs to operate the jail.
“Our grocery bill has gone up more than $10,000 a month, and our bill for prescription medicines has more than doubled,” he said. “We generate more than $1 million a year and we get the quarter-cent sales tax to operate but we can’t continue to operate the way we are.”
To resolve the issue, Bolin said many of those who are arrested on misdemeanor offenses are being given a court date and then released.
“We’re trying to get the low-level offenders out of there to make room for the high-level offenders,” he said.
Bolin, who has been in law enforcement since 1980, described his job as “the most stressful thing I’ve ever done.”
“You will get experience in the jail that you won’t get anywhere else,” he said.
On another subject, Bolin talked about construction of the new sheriff’s department building adjacent to the adult jail.
“Sheriff (Gerald) Robinson said that by his third term, we were going to have a new sheriff’s office building and when he says something like that, you can almost take it to the bank,” Bolin said. “It’s going to happen.”
Bolin said that when he started in law enforcement as a radio operator in 1980, “there was the sheriff, 25 deputies, four jailers and four radio operators.
“Now there are over 200 employees,” Bolin said.
He said the new building will have space for the department’s Training Division, which is currently housed in a small space in the basement of the county courthouse.
Scheduled to move in first will be the Criminal Investigation Division, which Bolin said has been in three different locations since he started work at the sheriff’s department. Barring unforeseen problems, that division is scheduled to be in the new building around the first of November.
“It’s a building the community can be proud of and it’s a building that’s going to be good and viable for years to come,” Bolin said.