ADC begins regional jail discussions

At the last Drew County Quorum Court meeting, a resolution was passed to begin discussions on a regional jail. The first was held at the Southeast Arkansas Regional Library, Monticello Branch last Thursday with Arkansas Department of Correction officials and county judges, sheriffs and lawmakers from Drew, Bradley, Lincoln, Chicot and Cleveland counties.
Actually, according to to Drew County Judge Robert Akin, no Regional Correctional Commission—as the Interlocal Cooperative Agreement passed by the Drew County QC states—has been set up yet because of a lack of participation.
“We do have resolutions from these other counties,” Akin said Tuesday. “The Interlocal Agreement says when five commissioners are on board, then it becomes a (Regional Jail) Commission. We have four; we’ve got the Bradley County judge, the Bradley County sheriff, the Drew County sheriff and the Drew County judge. We’re still looking for that fifth commissioner.”
So Thursday’s discussions were just that—discussions. The idea for a regional jail comes as counties continue to struggle with jail space limitations and costs. ADC officials talked about the potential of a 600-bed facility that would house mostly state Department of Correction inmates. It also would have a certain number of reserved spots for participating counties.
“We’re already housing 300 of our prisoners (statewide) in Bowie County, Texas,” Akin explained. “They’re employing people from the Texarkana area to do the work. If we’re going to do that, why are not we spending our money within the boundaries of our own state? That just makes sense.
“We’re talking employment of 100 to 120, assuming the number stays around 600, assuming they get it built in 18 months and assuming the numbers in the correctional facilities in the state aren’t even bigger. We’re not talking about menial jobs; we’re talking about decently waged people.
“The big holdup with the ADC is that they were afraid the correctional facility of choice was going to steal their employees from the state. My, and several of the other judges’, argument was we’re going to be a training ground for the ADC. The state will have an instant training ground because the prisoners would be handled on a federal level.”
Two of the five counties (Drew and Bradley) agreed to move forward with plans Thursday. A third county is needed to negotiate a contract. Rep. Jeff Wardlaw (R-Hermitage) said that several private corporations have expressed interest in running a regional jail since the meeting Thursday.

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