“Counties are facing challenging times even without this undue hardship,” said Chris Villines, Association of Arkansas Counties executive director. “The number of state inmates in county jails has a detrimental effect on local communities and local law and order. When you add the delay in reimbursement payments, this only compounds an already troubling financial and public safety crisis.
LITTLE ROCK — The County Judges Association of Arkansas (CJAA) and the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association (ASA) agreed to actively pursue an immediate solution to a shortfall in state budgeting for county jail reimbursements for state inmates housed in county jails. The CJAA approved a resolution during its summer meeting while the ASA executive board agreed to also engage now on the issue.
There are about 2,300 state inmates being held in county jails throughout Arkansas.
That is more than the largest state prison and this is despite the General Assembly appropriating in excess of $6 million to the Department of Corrections to hold more state prisoners during the Second Extraordinary Special Session of the 89th Arkansas General Assembly this summer. About 25 percent of county jail beds statewide are being used to hold state prisoners.
“Counties are facing challenging times even without this undue hardship,” said Chris Villines, Association of Arkansas Counties executive director. “The number of state inmates in county jails has a detrimental effect on local communities and local law and order. When you add the delay in reimbursement payments, this only compounds an already troubling financial and public safety crisis. We appreciate the fact that Gov. Mike Beebe has recognized the need and has agreed to release $1.1 million in rainy day funds to begin to address the crisis.”
At 2,300 state inmates, one year of reimbursements would be almost $24 million but the General Assembly appropriated only $16.5 million. Of this, $7 million is in category “B” funding, which will not be accessed until May/June 2015 and will actually manifest only if state revenues are better than projections. This means that the counties are owed from the state $1.95 million each month, but can only be paid, on average, about $750,000 each month to cover payments it owes to counties.
“The citizens of Sebastian County elected me to be sheriff, not a prison warden. The state has to address the 2,300 state prisoners left in our county jails,” said Bill Hollenbeck, Sebastian County Sheriff.
“Overcrowding, and under funding of jail reimbursements to the counties has to be addressed. This state crisis should not be a county burden. I am excited to work with our legislators to help resolve some of these issues."
Delay in payment of jail reimbursement and inadequate payments create an unnecessary and severe economic hardship on county governments and local taxpayers in Arkansas.
“The county jail reimbursement for housing state inmates is critical to counties,” said Doc Holladay, Pulaski County Sheriff. “In all fairness, the state should be responsible for its inmates and not unnecessarily burden the counties.”
It is well documented that counties are reimbursed only $28 per day for state inmates, which is on average statewide $17 per day per prisoner less of what it actually costs. This has cost counties in excess of $18 million dollars for holding state prisoners during the past year.
Local budgets are substantially burdened by increased costs for food and medical, inmate clothing, wear and tear on facilities and equipment.
The loss of fines, court costs and restitution also places additional unnecessary financial strain on our state and local county governments and increases lawlessness.
County governments, local communities and local taxpayers can no longer afford to suffer these state-created inflictions of economic harm.
“This is an example of the state using counties as a source of credit,” Villines said. “Despite all our best efforts in economic development and education in Arkansas, our progress could flat line if we don’t address this issue and it gets out of control.”
It is vital that the state of Arkansas take responsibility for its inmates and discharges the paramount duty under the Arkansas Constitution and laws of Arkansas to protect the public and provide for the detention of convicted felons.
The CJAA respectfully requests that Gov. Beebe call a Special Session of the General Assembly to amend the appropriation and funding of county jail reimbursement to provide for the prompt payment of the anticipated shortfall.
The CJAA joins the request of the Arkansas Sheriffs Association that local taxpayers and local jails should not continue to be burdened to provide for holding an unprecedented number of state inmates, that the 1,600 threshold determined by the sheriffs of Arkansas should be respected and adopted in budget recommendations by Gov. Beebe and the 89th General Assembly, and that the next governor of the state of Arkansas and 90th General Assembly duly provide for direct or indirect payment to private contractors for holding state inmates in excess of the 1,600 inmate threshold and to promptly appropriate, fund and pay the just debts of the state to the counties for holding state inmates for remainder of FY 2015 and FY 2016 at $45 dollars per day (the documented statewide average costs).