- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Department of Corrections owed 50 percent less in reimbursements last year than it did in 2015 to county jails for holding state inmates amid prison overcrowding.

The department owed $14 million last year, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2kk3teR ) reported. In 2015, the reimbursement rate for inmates rose from $28 to $30 per day, and the amount paid back peaked at $30 million.

The average number of state inmates housed in local jails in 2015 was about 2,600. As of last week, that number had dropped 1,000, partly because of the governor’s initiative that opened more prison beds, expanded re-entry programs and improved parole services focused on preventing recidivism rates.

Still, for many county jails, the $30 per-inmate reimbursement rate doesn’t cover the costs of housing inmates. For example, Pulaski County pays $63.26 per inmate per day - a discrepancy that created about a $3 million deficit last year and used up 11 percent of the jail’s budget for 2016.

The average cost to house inmates in local jails costs $45.66 per day in 15 counties, according to a study issued last fall by the Arkansas Legislative Audit.

“It’s really just what we could afford,” said Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It was the least we could do if we were going to occupy that much of their space. Thirty dollars was what we had in the budget to do.”

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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