“Hempstead County is currently owed $117,825.00 for housing state inmates since July. This is the time of year we start planning for the next budget cycle. This is unacceptable, but what can you do? We have to pay our bills, the state should pay their bills. The state inmates are a very large drain on our budget.” Hempstead County has 32 state inmates in its jail, and 16 state parole violators which is 48 percent of the facilty’s bed space, according to Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton.
“Hempstead County jail can hold 84 males and 16 women for a total of 100, we are not equipped to be a prison. We are having trouble finding bed space for people who commit new crimes, have outstanding warrants, are behind on child support and other violations,” Singleton continues. “Parole violators are a problem because they commit new crimes or will not follow their parole plan or report to their parole officer while out on parole, and are brought back to jail by their parole officer, taking up even more space.”
“When our jail was built in 1994 (there was) an agreement with the City of Hope. We agreed for them to have least 15-20% of the bed space. We also house 12 state’s (309’s), who take up 12 more beds and that leaves the County with about 20 beds for misdemeanors and felonies. When criminals know they are not going to be put in jail, they just keep committing crimes because there is no deterrent for their actions,” said Sheriff Singleton.
”We do have a few non-violent misdemeanor inmates on leg monitors which costs about 13 dollars a day, compared to $45.00 a day it costs to keep someone in jail. That too, is also a drain on our budget, because if we choose to release the inmates for medical reasons we pay for the monitors, not them. And some who are released commit new crimes while on leg monitors. We have already spent approximately $27,000.00 in leg monitor costs this year. “
“We cannot hold juveniles in our jail, (because) that also puts the burden of paying on someone else to keep the juveniles until they go to court,” said Singleton. Currently HempsteadCounty has spent over $80,000.00 in the first nine months of 2014 to house juvenile offenders. The juveniles are mostly housed at WhiteCountyJuvenileDetentionCenter in Batesville, Arkansas, and there is no reimbursement from anyone for juvenile offenders.
Sheriff Singleton explains, “We really need the money that is owed and it is going to be very difficult to operate without it. Our deputies and jailers are the lowest paid in the 10 Southwest Counties that surround us. The state needs to take responsibility for its inmates instead of leaving the counties hanging out to dry.”
The state owes more than $5.8 million to counties for housing state inmates from beginning of fiscal year (July to September). Reimbursements funding these payments are not adequate’ and leave the counties footing the bill under unnecessary hardships while jail backup continues to escalate, and is projected to continue. County officials thank Gov. Beebe for paving the way for $1.1 million of rainy day funds to address shortfall, but this crisis involves significantly more funding necessities, and more state responsibility for state inmates. Officials say the state should look at contracting with a third party to house state inmates.
Due to budgeting constraints, the state only can pay about $750,000 per month to reimburse counties; however, the actual invoices totaled more than $1.8 million more than that for July and August respectively. “When you look at the Department of Correction’s open invoices to counties for housing state inmates, it becomes very clear how this shortfall burdens many counties’ financial operations,” said AAC Executive Director Chris Villines. “County cash flow and budgeting decisions become a real concern for counties when this much anticipated reimbursement does not manifest, and let’s not forget the negative impact on the situation for local law enforcement in the jail and out on the streets of our communities.”
There are about 2,400 state inmates being held in county jails throughout Arkansas today. This number does not include a couple of hundred more state inmates in county jails awaiting parole revocation or revocation hearings. About 25 percent of county jail beds statewide are being used to hold state prisoners. The General Assembly appropriated and funded only $9 million dollars under category “A” for payment of county jail reimbursement. That factor limits monthly payments from the state to only about $750,000 per month out of category “A.”