Friday, April 21, 2017

Update on Regional Jail


According to a statement made by Bradley County Judge Klay McKinney, the project to build a regional prison/jail in Southeast Arkansas is going to happen.  Apparently there is nothing yet in writing and the information is not official.

Information quoted by various sources indicates that a private company from Louisiana will build, own and operate the facility and enter an agreement with the state of Arkansas to house several hundred inmates.  Jail bed space will be made available for up to four counties for local prisoners.  The county beds will be paid for by the individual counties.  Past comments made by State Representative Jeff Wardlaw indicated some of the state prisoners could be " low level sex offenders.  No further information has been made available on that statement.

Bradley County and Drew County quorum courts have set up a regional jail commission and it is reported two more counties may join, if they have not already done so.  At the April meeting of the Bradley County Quorum Court, the Bradley County Sheriff was added as a member of the regional jail commission.  It is reported all counties involved will place their Sheriffs on the commission.  What has not been made clear is the purpose of the commission, if the jail is to be privately owned and each county will be contracting to use bed space.  SRC has tried for months to get an answer and has been unable to do so.  Normally Commissions are set up to finance and/or operate a facility or provide a service.  If there is another purpose, the quorum court and the public should be told.

There has also been conflicting information circulating concerning the location of the facility.  It was reported that it would be in Wilmar, Arkansas and unofficial word is sites in or near Warren are being pursued.  Again, nothing official on the site plan.

This may be a worthwhile project to benefit Bradley County.  That in itself needs to be determined, especially as it relates to the county's annual budget.  The big issue is why the local quorum court and county officials are not being informed as to why a third party commission has to be formed to negotiate a contract or carry out some other function with a privately owned jail on behalf of the county.  Some straight answers would be appreciated prior to the county signing on.  Hopefully we will learn more, soon.

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