Non-profit looking to solve WashCo jail overcrowding problem

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SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA)– In Washington County, the quorum court is exploring alternatives to funding a jail expansion.

This comes after reports that the jail is overcrowded and more than 70 inmates are sleeping on the floor.

The Springdale non-profit Returning Home hopes to tackle the overcrowding problem with compassion, wanting to house certain inmates at a price they say is half the amount of what it costs the jail.

Nick Robbins, the executive director of Returning Home said, Ultimately, incarceration isn’t going to solve their issue. It’s going to make amends to the community, but it won’t change the individuals’ life in a positive way.

Returning Home is an organization serving men and women who have been incarcerated at some point in their life.
 
We can’t go back on what they did, we can’t stop them from committing the crime they already did, but we can stop them from continual crimes, and we can invest in them, so they can become the fathers and the sons they need to be, the mothers and the daughters they need to be, and the community leaders we need them to be, Robbins said.
 
Robbins wants to use his program to relieve the number of inmates who are sleeping on the floor at the Washington County jail.
 
He’s imploring the quorum court to fund a building next to the jail, and pay Returning Home for their services per inmate.
 
So that’s what we presented to the quorum court; that we’re able to provide those services at less than half the cost of housing somebody in jail, he said. So, all of those things for $28 a day compared to just having somebody sleeping on a bed in jail for $62 a day.
 
But to him, housing these inmates is more than just a money saver for the county.
 
Robbins said, We just think how much more impactful can we be in these individuals’ lives if just right next door they’re living there, and they’re receiving case management, mental health services, counseling. 
 
He said 50 pre-trial men and women could be a part of this program, and only those who want to be in the program will be accepted.
 
Justice of the Peace Susan Cunningham was one of the people who listened to Robbins’ pitch.
 
She said, We’ve been looking at various options, just alternatives to the jail expansion.
 
At the last meeting, instead of approving the jail expansion, the Washington County Jails Committee voted on an assessment of the county’s judicial system.

As of now, the assessment has passed at the finance and budget meeting, and has a dollar amount of $100,000.
 
Cunningham explains, So the assessment will take a look overall at the court, judges, the prosecutors,  the jail, everything, and see if we do indeed need a jail expansion.
 
Cunningham said this could take anywhere from six months to a year.
 
Robbins said he hopes they consider his idea because it’ll change the inmate’s lives for the better.
 
If it doesn’t work out in this environment, jail is the next stop and hopefully they see that as a great opportunity to change their lives, he said. 
 
Thursday, June 20, the quorum court will vote on if the assessment will be funded.
 
If it’s passed, the judge will then have the job of finding outside companies to complete this task.

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