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February 7, 2024


Recently the Izard County Quorum Court voted to use part of the ARPA monies, the County received, for a jail expansion. This decision was not made in haste as it has been discussed for over a year and a half at the Quorum Court meetings.

Talks about a jail expansion came about due to the review of the jail by the Department of Public Safety Criminal Detention Review Committee (commonly known as Jail Standards). This is who sets the guidelines and rules for county and local jails in Arkansas.  Going back to 2019, Jail Standards has stated there is lack of space at the Izard County Jail that causes struggles for room for health care, housing and classification goals, not able to separate trustee class inmates, and jail housing areas being over crowded. In August 2022, Review Coordinator Sterling Penix, with the Criminal Detention Review Committee, addressed the Quorum Court about the overcrowding issues at the jail and stated the County needed to start making plans to address these issues.

The jail is rated at 34 beds with a recommendation from Jail Standards to not go over 80% (27 beds) of housing to be able to accommodate any arrests that are made as well as to help achieve inmate classifications. Unfortunately, we have not been able to meet that goal. In 2021 the daily average inmate count for the jail was 32.2, in 2022 the daily average was 39.1, and in 2023 the average was 41.5. These numbers are just averages. Some days the jail had 50 plus inmates.

In 2023, the jail had an average daily count of 9.7 inmates that were sentenced to the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC), not counting the 309 program. It is no secret that the ADC is over crowded causing a vast backup of State inmates across all County and local jails across the State. Some beds have come open at ADC with talks of building more beds. However, at this time there is no time table of when more beds will be available as no building process has begun. Currently, the ADC backup list, across the State, is at 1863 inmates sitting in County jails, as of February 6, that have been sentenced to time at ADC. With the Truth In Sentencing Bill that went into effect this year, the number of ADC inmates in County jails will start to increase for an unknown amount of time.

Using the ARPA monies allows the County to use the monies provided without you having to pay an additional sales tax for the next several years or use County general funds for the jail expansion. The State does reimburse the County to house ADC inmates helping to offset the cost.

I am thankful for the vote by the Quorum Court for the Jail Expansion. I do not want to put the public in harm by having to turn away anyone arrested for a crime simply because the jail was out of room. I also do not want to have pay another jail to hold inmates for Izard County because the jail was out of room. The expansion will also allow the appropriate room for the safety of not only the inmates, but the Jail staff.

Sheriff Charley Melton

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