Washington County Officials Defer Action On Jail Expansion

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Leaders in Washington County have delayed action on a plan to expand the county jail, saying they should first consider other alternatives.

Tim Helder Washington County Sheriff said the crowded jail is a problem that will just continue to worsen.

"It's not necessarily something that I want," said Helder. "It is something that the citizens of Washington County deserve and need."

A committee of Washington County justices of the peace decided Monday to defer action on a proposal calling for a special election for voters to consider a bond issue to pay for the jail expansion. The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the bond issue would be funded by a sales tax increase and would pay for a $38 million jail expansion and an $11 million upgrade to emergency communications systems.

The county has been considering adding a new pod that would house about 500 inmates. Jail officials say the county routinely has 40 to 50 inmates who sleep on mattresses of the floor because of a lack of beds.

Helder said action is necessary for the law enforcement to continue doing their job in the best way possible.

"If you have the best police department in the world and they are making all these arrests and solving cases, but you have no where to put the people we're having real issues," Helder said. "Well we're going to be finding ourselves in that situation here in the very near future."

Helder said the department is releasing from the prison at a rate of about 200 a month for non-violent and misdemeanor arrestees.


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