At the September meeting of the Phillips County Quorum Court, several JPs expressed their concern about the status of the jail situation. One JP stated that he felt it was time to “get the ball rolling.”
Phillips County has been without a jail since April when they were forced to closed the facility as the result of several serious violations following a state inspection. Since that time the county has been transporting prisoners to jails as far away as Desha County and Wynne in Cross County.
According to law enforcement and county officials, the county has four options to resolve the jail problem. They can continue to transport the inmates to and from the distant jail facilities, build a new jail, renovate the old jail, if possible, or participate in a proposed regional jail operation. A regional jail decision would ride on the back of several other Delta counties that are considering participating.
During the Oct. 8 quorum court session, County Judge Don Gentry presented the JPs a list of figures dealing with the jail operation. According to Gentry it is currently costing the county $31,500 a month to house the inmates at the various facilities. There is also an additional vans and labor cost totaling $42,000, bringing the grand total to $504,000 for the year.
In reference to a new jail, Gentry's figures revealed that if Helena-West Helena and the county would give up 25 percent of the one-cent jail tax to operate the jail, all the money would be sent to the Phillips County Treasurer's Office and would be used only to operate the jail.
Gentry's report showed Helena-West Helena's share would be $300,000; the county, $137,500; and the three small cities – Marvell, Elaine and Lexa – would be $12,500 for a total of $450,000.
“We will still need approximately $350,000 out of County General Funds to make a total of $800,000 to operate the jail per year,” Gentry concluded in his report.