The Izard County Quorum Court recently voted to use a portion of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) monies the County received for a jail expansion.
According to a press release from Izard County Sheriff Charley Melton, the project has been discussed for over a year and a half by the Quorum Court. Melton says the Department of Public Safety Criminal Detention Review Committee reviewed the county jail and stated there is a lack of space which causes struggles to find room for healthcare, housing and classification goals, not being able to separate trustee class inmates and jail housing areas being over crowded.In August 2022 the committee told the Quorum Court the county needed to start making plans to address the issues.
Melton says the jail is rated at 34 beds with a recommendation to not go over 80 percent, or 27 beds, of housing to be able to accommodate any arrests made as well as to help achieve inmate classifications. The jail has not been able to meet the goal. Daily average inmate counts in 2021 was 32.2, in 2022 39.1, and in 2023 the average was 41.5. Melton says some days the jail had 50 plus inmates.
Using the ARPA monies allows the County to use the monies provided without citizens 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 Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) inmates helping to offset the cost.
In 2023, the Izard County jail had an average daily count of 9.7 inmates who were sentenced to the ADC, not counting the 309 program. Across the state there are approximately 1863 inmates sitting in County jails who have been sentenced to the ADC. Melton states 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.
Melton says, “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.”
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