- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - An Arkansas legislative panel has rejected a disputed $160 million contract with an Indiana company to take over the operation of seven youth lockup facilities in Arkansas.

The panel voted Tuesday not to review the Department of Human Services’ contract with Youth Opportunity Investments LLC, which is set to take over the facilities Jan. 1.

Lawmakers questioned the 58 percent increase in per-bed cost to run the facilities. Department officials said the higher cost is due to inflation, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/2hmkinU ) reported.

“We have not provided the services and not paid the type of money that we needed to in the juvenile justice arena for years,” said Keesa Smith, Youth Opportunity deputy director.

The panel also wondered if the money going toward the facilities would be more effective going into community-based services instead.

The two companies that have run the facilities for years and lost the contract bid have also challenged the state’s intention to work with Youth Opportunity. South Arkansas Youth Services and Consolidated Youth Services both said the selection process was rigged, and that their less-expensive proposals were better.

The panel could take up the contract for final review Friday. If the contract isn’t on Friday’s agenda or is rejected again, the services could be provided through a short-term sole source contract to ensure the youth facilities remain open.

Almost 250 youths judged as guilty and in state custody can be held in the lockup facilities.

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


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