Washington County justices search for alternatives to incarceration

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — In Thursday’s Quorum Court meeting, justices of the peace approved a plan for a study that will search for alternative options to a proposed jail expansion.

The measure allots $100,000 to study the county’s criminal justice system. Justices pushed it through by a 10-3 vote. The move will seek alternatives to a proposed $38 million jail expansion that has been advocated by Sheriff Tim Helder.

In addition, the justices approved a $15,000 measure to hire an ombudsman to work with the sheriff’s office and jail staff to reduce the number of jailed pretrial inmates. It has been reported that the jail has been consistently overcrowded for the last eight months.

“We’ve got a window of opportunity here, so my hope is we can forestall bringing in temporary facilities,” said concerned citizen Mack Mayfield, who referenced possible semi-trailers that could be installed at the jail. “We have to do things to alleviate the overcrowding.”

The justices who opposed the study referenced costs and the court’s inability to make binding recommendations on elected officials. Others said the sheriff’s office already handles the business an ombudsman will theoretically take on.

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