Wednesday, March 07, 2007

TOP STORY >>Jail wants state help to repair bad roof

Leader staff writer

The Pulaski County Detention Center is housing about 100 prisoners more than it has room for and has a roof that may fall in any day on about 160 felons. The bad roof could force the county to crowd the prisoners into another facility or release some of them.

District 15 Justice of the Peace Steve Goss of North Little Rock, along with State Rep. Sandra Prater of Jacksonville, are pushing the state to give the county $1.5 million in one-time money to take care of the roof problem. Pulaski County Sheriff Doc Holladay and others are asking legislators to increase the rate of pay the state pays the county for keeping state prisoners from $28 a day to $48.

“It costs us $48-$50 a day to feed, care and keep state prisoners,” Goss said, adding that on a daily basis, 150 of the prisoners in the county jail are state prisoners. The jail can house 880 prisoners, but according to Goss it’s currently home to about 100 more inmates. John Rehrauer, spokesman for the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, said the daily inmate counts has been around 925. Both Sherwood and Jacksonville recently passed resolutions supporting the county’s effort to get money from the state to make the much-needed jail repairs.

The resolution, being pushed by Pulaski County officials, is asking the state for $1.5 million to make repairs to the county jail roof and other improvements. If this work is not done, according to the resolution, the county will have to move 162 prisoners, all felons, to “a less secure area of the facility, which causes great concern for the safety and well-being of citizens and jail personnel as well as other inmates housed in the facility.”

There’s even a possibility that the jail will have to release some of the prisoners if repairs are not done. “We don’t have the money at the county level to make the repairs,” JP Goss said, “and I don’t know who else to plead to.” He said it’s just a matter of time before the roof falls.

“We thought it might happen back in January when we had all that rain and ice,” Goss said. Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim told his aldermen that the county is meeting resistance from the state because the county has not done a good job handling their expenses.

“Governor Beebe is not inclined to do this, but it doesn’t hurt us any to support it,” Swaim said. Alderman Terry Sansing was concerned that the resolution was a ploy to get around the controversy of pork-barrel projects. Local attorney Mike Wilson took the state to court over the use of its General Improvement Funds for “pork-barrel” or local projects. Jacksonville City Attorney Robert Bamburg said this was not the case as the state houses prisoners in the Pulaski County jail, so state funds may be used.

District 11 Justice of Peace Bob Johnson of Jacksonville said, “I’m for it (the state money), and definitely hope we get it.”
The sheriff is going to meet with the county’s Ways and Means Committee and show the group how much the extra prisoners are costing the county.

“We can’t afford to spend much more,” Goss said.