Jackson County Plans New $9.8 Million Jail

Jackson County officials hope to start construction on a $9.8 million 104-bed jail by August to replace the Newport detention center, which was targeted to be closed because of its poor conditions.

County Judge Jeff Phillips said the 37,599-SF jail should be open for inmates in January 2015.

The jail will be built across the street from the county’s current jail, which was built in the late 1970s and was designed to hold 27 inmates, Phillips said. The average number of inmates, however, was 45 to 55 people, Phillips said.

The Criminal Detention Facilities Review Committees, which are under the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration, threatened in February 2012 to recommend that the jail be closed if it wasn’t brought up to minimum standards. One of the committees’ concerns was the jail’s overcrowding.

“This situation creates serious safety, security, and health risk for both the inmates and jail staff,” said the committees’ letter to Phillips on Feb. 12.

The cells also didn’t meet general housing and space requirements mandated by state law, the letter said. “Cells are too small to adequately house the number of inmates the jail must accommodate,” the letter said.

Phillips said the county didn’t have the money to build a jail, so it asked the voters in February for the money. Voters passed two 0.375 percent sales taxes for the jail. Revenue from one of the taxes will cover the construction costs and will sunset once the bonds are paid off, Phillips said. The other tax will cover the operational cost of the jail.

The taxes are expected to generate a total of $1.4 million annually for the county of 19,000 people, Phillips said.

The architect for the project is Evans Taylor Foster Childress Architects of Memphis. The project manager is Frank A. Rogers & Co. of Newport.