Sheriff Warns of Overcrowding at Central Arkansas Jail

by Jeannie Nuss, The Associated Press  on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013 7:31 am  

LITTLE ROCK - Persistent overcrowding at the Pulaski County jail could force officials to close the central Arkansas facility to all but violent and the most serious non-violent offenders, the county sheriff warned Monday.

The jail in Little Rock is supposed to house up to 1,210 inmates, but the population at the county detention center was nearing 1,300 on Monday, Sheriff Doc Holladay said.

More than 400 of the inmates at the jail are there on some sort of state hold, Holladay said. More than 200 of those inmates have had their parole revoked, and nearly 200 have been committed to the state prison system by the courts, Holladay said.

"Unless I can get some help from the state to take some of these people out of this facility and put them where they are supposed to be, then we're going to have to consider closing the facility to only violent offenders or more serious non-violent felons," Holladay said.

But the state prison system says it's over capacity, too. Arkansas Department of Correction spokeswoman Shea Wilson said the agency has more than 2,500 people on backup lists in county jails who are awaiting transport to state prisons.

"Until there's some release - either we have the resources to open up new beds or we see a slowing of the number of people awaiting a bed in prison - then we're going to be faced with this issue for a while," Wilson said.

Holladay acknowledged the state's problems, but he said it's not fair to turn county jails into holding facilities for Arkansas' prisons.

"I understand that the state has some issues with the prison system, but the state has an obligation to take into account the needs of the counties throughout this state and not allow the county jails to become holding facilities for an abnormal number of state inmates," Holladay said.

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