Crawford County’s new jail is keeping more criminals behind bars.
Crawford County Justice Center held 212 inmates, both charged awaiting trial and sentenced, as of Jan. 25, said Crawford County Sheriff Ron Brown.
That’s more than double the maximum of 88 prisoners that could be held in the old jail.
“We’re not rotating inmates in and out,” Brown said. “There’s accountability now.”
None of the inmates currently in the jail are being housed for outside agencies, though some are awaiting a bed at the state penitentiary, Brown said.
While the number of people booked into the county jail so far this year is about the same as it was in January of 2016, the real benefit of the new jail is the ability to retain criminals, Brown said.
“We were still booking in people (in the old jail); we were just releasing them,” Brown said.
Of the 212 inmates in the new jail, about 52 of them were misdemeanors who would have been immediately released on signature bonds in the old jail, Brown said.
That leaves 160 felony prisoners, both charged and sentenced - about 72 more than the maximum capacity allowed by law in the old jail. Most of them would have been released on signature bonds as well, Brown said.
And 35 criminals awaiting a bed at the state penitentiary are waiting in jail - not released on a reporting bond, Brown said.
“A lot of the state inmates, if they were sentenced on a non violent crime - most of them were drug offenses - they were issued a reporting bond,” Brown said. “Basically they just called in every night.”
On a reporting bond, inmates call in to the jail to see if they are on a list of those going to the state jail. They often spend only a minor portion of their sentencing behind bars.
In the second week of January, Brown recalled all inmates who were out on reporting bonds. No inmates are currently free on reporting bonds, Brown said.
Only about five signature bonds have been issued since the jail opened, and those were because of medical necessity, Brown said.
Sheriff’s deputies moved a total of 108 prisoners from the old jail into the new detention center at 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 4, Brown said. State and other local agencies helped with the move, and the Alma School District provided three buses and volunteer drivers.
Brown already has had reports that the attendance and productiveness of community service workers has increased, and he is interested to see how the new jail will impact fine and fee revenue for the county and its cities, he said.
“Before, people wouldn’t pay their fines because they knew they wouldn’t be sent to jail,” Brown said.
With a reduction in signature bonds, bond collections already are increasing, Brown said.
A $20 fee set on fines, bonds and booking goes into a fund for improving and maintaining jails under Arkansas Act 209.
“(The fund) can finally be used for what it was designed for - to improve,” Brown said. “It’s not designed to be used as a general revenue. But we’ve been so dependent on that since 2008, just to operate on, that it’s nearly depleted.”
While Brown said there have been no issues at the new jail regarding construction or inmates, he is in the process of making some operational changes.
Currently the central control system oversees booking, rotating inmates to court, meals and more. This is overwhelming for just two deputies to handle, he said.
Brown is considering the efficiency of going to a key system used by deputies on the ground for doors, he said.
Staff also are dealing with a software update that coincided with the move, that has impeded some of their systems from syncing, Brown said.
Because of technical issues, 911 dispatch is still being run from the old detention center, Brown said. But he hopes it will be able to move to the new jail within the month, he said.