FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Jail overcrowding concerns have increased in Washington and Benton County.
According to Washington County Sheriff Jay Cantrell there are currently 800 people in the jail. It should only be holding 500 to 600.
“In Washington County we have so many felons that we have incarcerated we have no room to hold the misdemeanors,” said Sheriff Cantrell.
According to Sarah Moore with Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition the overcrowding issues Benton and Washington counties are seeing is because of mass incarcerations.
“The data in the nation for Arkansas that we are the number four or number five incarcerator,” said Moore.
Cantrell stated it’s hard for the Washington County Jail to hold people for drunk driving for more than a few hours.
We don’t have a place to hold them barley long enough to get sober and then they are released with no oversight really,” said Cantrell. “We don’t have to post a bond because we got to get them out of here.”
According to Cantrell, the jail sometimes has to put 50 people in a room that is only designed to hold 32.
“It’s because we are bursting at the seams,” said Cantrell.
Jails aren’t immune to COVID-19. When someone becomes infected the virus it can be difficult to isolate detainees.
“We have a duty to protect those people who are in our custody,” said Cantrell. “So, we have to find a place to isolate those people that are positive and also isolate those people who have been exposed.”
Moore says there is community support for more programs to help people recently released from jail.
“I knocked on over 3,000 doors last fall and what I heard over and over again was redistribution of our resources,” said Moore.
Cantrell is implementing ways to help ease the population of the jail.
“We got our ankle monitor program,” said Cantrell. “We are putting people on ankle monitors to try and monitor them and keep up with there whereabouts, and that’s been fairly successful.”
Cantrell hopes to bring more beds to get people from sleeping on the floor. However, he knows overcoming this issue will take more than one solution.