Pulaski County Jail Overcrowded, May Have To Keep Only Most Dangerous

Nov 18, 2013

The Pulaski County Detention Center
Credit Pulaski County Sheriff's Office

The Pulaski County jail has become critically overcrowded, Sheriff Doc Holladay said Monday, which could result in it only being able to house the most dangerous offenders.

It comes as Arkansas has made changes to the parole system, stiffening rules for when people must be detained for violating parole.  That has greatly increased the number of violators being detained at county jails, waiting for space to become available in state prisons.

As of Monday, the Pulaski County Detention Facility was housing 1,298 inmates, while it's designed for a maximum of 1,210.  Nearly 400 of those are waiting to be transferred to state prisons, which officials said last month have swelled to record populations.

"I certainly understand they have some issues, but I can not allow the state to take advantage of us to the point that we are not able to provide the service that this jail, as a regional detention facility, is required to do," Holladay said.

Officials with the Arkansas Department of Correction say more money will need to be allocated by the legislature to expand prison facilities.

Holladay says it’s impacting his budget with additional overtime and higher medical and food needs.  He said they've also had to bring in mattresses so that some inmates don't have to sleep on the floor.

The jail houses all people who are arrested in the county, but Holladay says he has notified the different police departments that he may have to refuse to accept all but the most dangerous offenders, possibly before the end of the month.

"I wanted to reach out to local law enforcement to make them aware that without some relief from the state, we're going to have to be very selective about who we take into this facility."

The changes to the parole system came after an eight-time absconder was charged in the murder of a Little Rock man in May, prompting outrage from the community.  But the policy changes brought a sudden increase in the number of people being detained.

Officials with the Arkansas Department of Community Correction said recently that they are looking at making more use of GPS ankle bracelets, so that non-violent offenders can be released early, but still monitored.

Holladay says state officials need to take action immediately to remove inmates from his jail who are waiting for beds to become available in state prisons.

"They need to find some space, whether it's in other county jails that have available space or whatever.  We can't continue to let these populations get out of hand because we also have to be concerned about the welfare of those people who are employed here and those people who are incarcerated here," Holladay said.