BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/FOX24) — The Benton County Jail is dealing with overcrowding right now.
Lt. Shannon Jenkins said on Monday they currently have 702 people in the jail, and that most of them are felonies, which means they can’t be released as easily as those with misdemeanors.
One hundred and two of the people in the jail are state prisoners who have already been sentenced and are waiting to be called for transport to the Arkansas Department of Corrections. That can only happen when DOC has an open bed.
Numbers in the jail hit a high point last week at 751 people. The jail only has a bed capacity for 669, but Lt. Jenkins said it’s not as simple as keeping bed capacity low.
“You have to keep different groups of people separated,” she said. “You have to keep men and women apart, misdemeanors and felonies apart, pre-trial and post-trial, sex offenders, disciplinaries, admin segs, they all have to be housed in different areas. We have done some moving around to accommodate the different numbers of people we have in the pods.”
Lt. Jenkins said they have had to get more temporary beds called “boats” so they can house people in their correct areas when they’ve run out of traditional beds. And like in Washington County, she said they are also dealing with high failure to appear rates.
She said this surge in people in the jail can be overwhelming.
“It’s been an ongoing issue, it’s probably going to be an ongoing issue for a little bit,” she said. “Sheriff Holloway has been really proactive in trying to find an immediate solution and long term solution to the problems.”
She said the jail is not seeing any sort of COVID-19 outbreak right now. She said they are also actively recruiting to keep up on staff numbers.
The Benton County Sheriff’s Office is working towards a jail expansion. Lt. Jenkins said the county’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee is actively researching and working towards that goal.