Inmates Released As Arkansas’ Jails Become Overcrowded

Convicted felons across Arkansas are being released back into the public because state and county jails are full, according to authorities.

In Sebastian County, Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck says between 20 and 40 inmates are released from the detention center daily due to overcrowding problems. Of the more than 400 inmates at the jail, nearly 200 of them are waiting to be transferred to the Arkansas Department of Correction, but the state jail is also full.

“Over 50 percent of the population in the Sebastian County jail right now are state inmates that the state of Arkansas is responsible for,” said Hollenbeck. “The tough choices that I have to make are ‘Who are the bad guys that I’m going to have to let out?’”

The inmates are being released through bond or community work programs to make room for more violent offenders, Hollenbeck said. Some of the released prisoners could be facing felony charges, but the sheriff said they’ll begin by releasing non-violent offenders before releasing those inmates who have been convicted of more serious crimes.

According to Hollenbeck, overcrowding became a problem when the parole system was overhauled last year after a Pulaski County man who was out on bond was arrested on suspicion of murdering a Fayetteville teen. Since July 2013, the number of state inmates waiting in county jails has increased from 485 to 2,889.

County jails across the state are understaffed and overworked, according to Hollenbeck.

The Crawford County Detention Center has had problems with overcrowding and was placed on probation by the state as a result. Crawford County leaders are working to pass a sales tax in May to help get a new jail built.

Prosecuting Attorney Marc McCune said the Crawford County Detention Center currently is housing approximately 80 inmates. McCune said 28 inmates sentenced to the state Department of Correction are currently out on release bonds until the state facility has more bed space.

Sebastian County took in some inmates from Crawford County to help alleviate some of the crowding, but now their detention center is full too, Hollenbeck said. The sheriff believes the state needs more prisons and parole officers and to re-evaluate parole operations.

“If you’re going to put one in, we have to take one out,” he said.

This week legislators approved spending more money on state prisons and to reimburse the county jails.

12 comments

  • atc8824

    Beebe needs to start back execution.I feel any person that could hurt a child should automatically be on d row.I cant put the word d eath r ow I get moderated.

    • newsonvets

      Some people (child molesters, murders) need to be in prison. But when the laws are focused on getting a large volume of people arrested, police resources are diverted from catching those people in the first place.

  • newsonvets

    I expect to see a lot more “news” about this from channel 5 as you start pushing the for profit prison industry. In other states, the for profit industry has received 90% occupancy guarantees in their contracts. This is creating a motive for the government to arrest and convict people that goes to profit not just public safety. For profit prisons make money by forcing inmates to work in the prison’s manufacturing: prison labor. That’s Stalin, that’s North Korea. For profit prisons have zero interest in rehabilitating people. They have zero interest in reducing recidivism. The have every interest in keeping people locked up. Which is a good thing for some people, but do we want 2 years sentences stretching to 20 years because some CEO needs the free labor and systematically starts punishing inmates for arbitrary reasons? We already have more people in prison per capita that any other nation on earth. Do we really want a profit incentive to make us even more of a prison state? Is that freedom? Is that liberty?

    Keep pushing the for profit prison industry, KFSM “news”. Keep showing that your corporate interests trump the interests of your viewers.

    • JD

      @ newsonvets, 5news is reporting on a local, serious problem we are having in OUR community. I’m sure the for profit prison system issue you are talking about is worth researching, but right now today we need to address what’s going on here in our own front yards. And our jails having to release convicted prisoners because of overcrowding is real. Please go to a CPA class and become informed and tour the facility before making wild conspiracy theorist accusations.

      • newsonvets

        If 5 “news” wasn’t pushing candidates who have favored for profit prisons (pay attention: they have political bias). If they’d covered ANY of the recent problems to crop up with for profit prisons. If…

        …I might be inclined to your view on this JD.

        But overcrowding in state prisons and county jails is hardly new information. This is piece is clearly about inspiring fear. “We have to relieve over crowding.” Watch: next legislative session there will be a vote to allow for profit prisons in Arkansas (no new taxes, no cost to taxpayers).

  • First Last (@reject_all_lies)

    channel 5 just parrots CNN. it also doesnt show real news. no surprise for a 2 bit local station. remember that convictions create convicts.. and laws lead to conviction. too many laws = too many convicts. FEMA camps will soon be accepting residents.. so lets not get too hasty to build more jails just yet.

  • greedy fat narcissistic white lady

    wow, im really surprised that the comments on here are actually insightful. people are starting to awaken to the reality of our american police state. i absolutely agree that all laws concerning marijuana should be abolished. anything marijuana related should be forgiven. alot of the state inmates waiting in county jails are parole violators who were doing good and not causing any problems that probably smoked marijuana in the privacy of their own homes to relieve the trauma of their incarceration.. it wasnt good enough that they were minding their own business… they have to incarcerate someone for smoking marijuana.. well good i hope the jails and prisons overcrowd to the point where they have to release people

  • greedy fat narcissistic white lady

    this story is suppose to make all of the stoopid sheep and the patriotic rednecks beg the governor to approve construction of another prison… “oh theyre releasing prisoners, please build more prisons!!” … yeah well people are starting to wake up… its about time. abolish marijuana laws and stop buying shiny new vehicles and they might be able to afford to lock up those that need to be lockedup

  • Christie Barker

    Prison is often referred to as the department of corruption. They don’t try to teach or encourage people to change behaviors. Parole & probation officers often don’t do the proper thing when they are released, such as making home visits & offering praise if they are trying to do right, counseling if they are struggling, or punishment if they truly aren’t going to change. They most usually just wait for them to mess up & most people expect felons to mess up anyway, right. Wrong some people do want to change & do better. They want that better life, but are labeled & have one strike against them as soon as they get out. In my opinion they need to separate the prisoners by putting the one’s that have life or extended sentence’s in one facility & the minor offenders in another one. By doing this society may see a change for the better in that the latter will have a better chance of being rehabilitated, because they often fight among each other & the lifers could care less & the one’s that might come out reformed only become more hardened due to this situation. Good behavior is a part of your release date, that’s where the lifer’s come into this, they get bad behavior & it doesn’t affect them one way or another. I could keep writing as I have formed these written comments first hand by having loved one’s in Prison. Don’t get me wrong I’m not taking up for them at all, but the above comments would help some to never be a repeated offender.

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