The Sebastian County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee once again took up the discussion about ways to address the overcrowded county jail during its meeting Tuesday.
The committee discussed recommendations for the committee that were outlined in a report dated May 2010. Sebastian County Judge David Hudson said the county had a technical assistance engagement from the National Institute of Corrections that reviewed the criminal justice coordinating committee that had been active for about eight years up through 2010. There was also a technical assistance engagement in which the Sebastian County Adult Detention Center had been reviewed.
Hudson said looking back through where the county is in 2018, all of the same issues exist that existed in 2010.
"Now we have made some points in this report," Hudson said. "We have formally created a criminal justice coordinating committee by ordinance. The Quorum Court has authorized staffing for it, and we have implemented a crisis stabilization unit for the diversion of the mentally ill from jail, and we're in the process of continuing to train law enforcement officers in crisis intervention training, and a number of the counties and cities in our six county mental health catchment area have adopted the interlocal agreement. That's still in process."
The population of the adult detention center has been increasing, Hudson said. If it keeps going in that direction, the county is putting a burden on all of the detention center staff, as well as the inmates being held there. The jail has been running over capacity since 2013.
The technical assistance report, Hudson said, recommends the criminal justice coordinating committee consider what the jail's capacity is to operate it more appropriately. This is to be accomplished by considering how the committee could go through a process of determining how many inmates would be held, which would include who is in jail and for how long.
Hudson said part of the dialogue in the report is viewing the jail as a limited resource, to consider that it is not the sheriff's problem to solve the fact that the jail is operating over capacity, but rather it is the justice system's condition to manage. Hudson described this is as another way of thinking.
The report also recommended the committee, if it can, define the purpose of the jail in an effort to try to determine how many inmates it would target to try to hold there, Hudson said.
"We know we hold pretrial felons that are dangerous and violent people," Hudson said. "We know that that's a priority and that's been in our discussions. We also hold pretrial misdemeanors. Hopefully, we hold them for a limited number of days. Looking at all the others, we know we hold (Arkansas Department of Corrections) inmates."
Hudson said the county has a financial connection to ADC inmates; the county is paid $30 a day to hold them. The jail also holds U.S. marshals inmates. The Marshals Service pays Sebastian County $53 a day to hold marshals inmates at the county jail, Hudson said in a previous article. The county holds other types of inmates in the jail as well.
Hudson said one recommendation listed in the report is to consider setting a target for how many inmates would be held at the jail, as well as consider how many inmates by category would be held there. He also said the report states one of the purposes of the criminal justice coordinating committee is to maintain a focus on policy planning, meaning what should it do and why rather than what will it do and when.
"One of the purposes of this body is to collaborate to change local policies and practices and establish different policies for processing defendants and offenders," Hudson said.
After the meeting, Hudson said he thinks Sebastian County Sheriff-Elect Hobe Runion will meet with County Jail Administrator William Dumas and deputy John Miller. They will come up with some recommendations and will coordinate that with Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Shue, as well as the district and circuit judges, and come back with a report during the criminal justice coordinating committee meeting Sept. 25.