Sebastian County jail overcrowding prompts justice system study

FOX24

FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFTA) — Sebastian County Judge David Hudson says overcrowding in the county jail has been nearly a decade-long issue.

He says it typically runs between 20 to 30 inmates over capacity on any given day.

An outside company has been hired to perform a criminal justice system study and jail needs analysis.

Hudson says the county is evaluating how the jail operates, which started with a Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee.

“If you look at how your specialty courts are operating, if you have a drug court like we do in Sebastian County — it’s been successful. If you have a veterans court like we have in Sebastian County, it’s been successful. We’re looking at a mental health court,” he said.

The Sebastian County Crisis Stabilization Unit, which opened in March 2018, has also been successful in diverting some people from jail. However, it’s not enough.

“We’ve discussed the feasibility of something like a sobering center, which is going to take some enabling legislation to divert alcoholic individual from being held in jail to another facility that is appropriate for their care,” Hudson said.

Building a bigger building is not a long-term solution.

Ultimately, a solution could involve going to the public for money.

“We’re also asking in our study for a third party to look at the types of inmates we hold in jail and determine how many beds they feel like we need,” Hudson said. “There’s not one fix. It’s going to take a variety of areas on an ongoing basis to try to deal with this challenge.”

The criminal justice study is expected to wrap up in June.

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