Overcrowding a problem in some county jails in Arkansas

HARRISON, Ark. - Boone County officials said overcrowding is not just a problem at their jail; it's a problem statewide.

Captain Tom Smith with the Boone County Sheriff's Office, said, "We probably get calls all the time to see if we have room. Most generally we don't have any room."

About 10 years ago, the current Boone County jail opened, which more-than doubled the number of inmates that could be housed.

Smith said, "So we thought that this was going to do us for a long time and we were in good shape."

But they're currently overcrowded on a daily basis.

"In February we averaged about 95 people," Smith said. "For us to be comfortable and not to be considered overcrowded we need to be around the high 80s to the real low 90s."

The reasons for overcrowding range from more people arrested on drug charges in the county, to overcrowding in state prisons.

Smith said, "There are some inmates that have been already adjudicated and sentenced to Arkansas Department of Corrections. And when we get to a certain level there are other agencies that will hold those for us."

The more inmates in a jail, the more of a safety risk it can be for detention officers.

"They're having to move them around more," Smith said. "They're having to do more transfers back and forth to court."

And it also hurts the agency's wallet.

"It costs more money to feed them. It costs more money to house them as far as water, different things like that. Medical costs go up the more people that you have," he said.

Officials said a step to improve the situation would be for lawmakers in the state to build more prisons with more bed spaces, to deal with the overcrowding issue in state prisons. Then county jails could transfer inmates in a more timely manner to the prisons, which would help with the overcrowding in the jails.

Read the original version of this article at www.ky3.com.