Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe has called for a special legislative session in Little Rock.
A main item on the agenda is jail and prison overcrowding.
Governor Beebe wants state leaders to address major inmate overcrowding problems. And, he hopes a six million proposal to add six hundred new beds will do it.
“If we don’t address the problem now, it could get much worse” said Representative Greg Leding, a democrat out of Fayetteville.
Inmate overcrowding in Arkansas is a growing problem.
“Right now our county jails are under incredible strain due to overcrowding” Leding said.
Governor Beebe has proposed a $6 million plan that would free up 600 beds.
Some officials say this would help local jails.
“If we have too much overcrowding, of course it increases violence,” said Detective Mike Lira, who works for the Benton County Sherrif’s Office. “It can increase stress for the jail staff, the inmates. It’s not a good environment at all.”
According to officials, with overcrowding in jails, the safety for both guards and inmates can be jeopardized.
“Including the inmates, including the staff, to have them go home safe to their families, that’s the most important thing,” Lira said.
With more than 3,000 prisoners currently in county jails across Arkansas, state representatives say the overcrowding is also costing taxpayers money.
“It’s not only a financial burden on the counties who are having to pay more to take care of these prisoners than they are receiving from the state. But, it’s also very unsafe for the guards, and the inmates, quite frankly,” said Leding.
While some suggest the county jails release minimal offenders, law enforcement officials assure the public that the violent inmates will not be released for any reason.
Much of the jail influx is due to inmates who are awaiting transfer to prison. Jail supervisors say the number of those types of inmates has dramatically increased in the past few years.