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Arkansas Sheriffs's Association Taking Overcrowding Inmates "Crisis" to Governor

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Riots in county jails and mass release of felons all being blamed by the Arkansas Sheriffs' Association on the state pushing overcrowded inmates back to the county level.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Riots in county jails and mass release of felons all being blamed by the Arkansas Sheriffs' Association on the state pushing overcrowded inmates back to the county level.

With their hands tied, no immediate solution in sight and overcrowding numbers continuing to rise the Association is taking their concerns to Governor Beebe.

There are currently 2892 State inmates sitting in county jails across the state. It's left Ronnie Baldwin and others to figure out what needs to be done.

"Our Sheriff's are in crisis mode," Baldwin said. "These State inmates are creating riots, causing disturbances and it puts our correctional staff at just a tremendous safety risk."

Former Cross County Sheriff and current Executive Director of the Arkansas Sheriffs' Association (ASA), Baldwin says county jails are at or over capacity.

"The Sheriff's are very, very frustrated that they can't operate their facilities and protect their citizens the way they would like to do," Baldwin added. "We need to get them out of there and we would like for the State to be responsible for their own inmates."

Baldwin has the help of the Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC).

AAC Executive Director Chris Villines says the State's actual largest prison, the Cummins Unit, only holds 1850 State inmates.

Collectively, county jails are holding well more than that.

"The state has the luxury of using the counties as basically the largest prison in the state," Villines explained. "We've got to look at some different, long-term solution to the problem."

According to AAC, housing a state inmate costs the county $45 per day.

The state however only reimburses them $28, a $17 difference.

With nearly three thousand inmates backed up, the AAC says they lose nearly $50k every day. At that rate, Arkansas counties would lose $18,000,000 a year.

Ultimately Villines says it's a funding issue but there are other solutions on the table.

"Private companies being one of them," Villines provided. "Housing inmates at facilities that we're not even aware of or not thinking of right now. Those kind of things have to be looked at."

Whatever it may be, they need one now to help end this "crisis."

"We've got to have some relief," Baldwin said. "We've got to have some immediate relief."

Friday (3/20) morning, the two groups will meet with Governor Beebe to ask for help and come up with a solution as they say it doesn't seem this problem is moving anywhere but in the wrong direction.

(courtesy KARK)
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