- Associated Press - Thursday, June 5, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association has asked Gov. Mike Beebe to call a special session for lawmakers to enact changes to ease overcrowding in jails and prisons.

Arkansas’ inmate population has soared since the state enacted stricter probation and parole policies last year. Many state inmates are being held at county jails as they await state prison beds, and the sheriffs said Wednesday that their facilities can’t handle the increased population.

“We are in crisis mode,” said Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery, who is second vice president of the Sheriffs’ Association.

The association said 2,714 state inmates were being held in county jails across Arkansas as of Wednesday. The organization wants legislators to cap that number at 1,600.

“That mark is something we believe we can handle,” Montgomery said.

Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1j1JjuZ ) that there must be consensus among lawmakers that the issue warrants immediate attention before a special session is called.

DeCample said the state expected a short-term backlog of state prisoners at county jail after the parole and probation changes took effect last year.

“I know we’ve been looking to see how that has continued, as far as what figures have contributed to the backup that has been sustained in county jails,” he said.

In the state’s largest county, Pulaski County Sheriff Doc Holladay has closed the jail to many low-level offenders to deal with the overcrowding.

Holladay said the jail population is being monitored daily and that it was unclear when it might hold low-level offenders again. Until then, they will be fingerprinted and released after their arrests.

If a special session isn’t called, lawmakers could address the issue at its regular session in January.


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

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