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Pulaski County’s top elected executive during his state of the county address on Tuesday heralded the county’s progress in 2018, in particular the opening of a crisis stabilization unit, and looked to strategies to decrease the jail population.

County Judge Barry Hyde named the establishment of the crisis stabilization unit as one of the past year’s achievements. The unit serves as a place law enforcement officers can take people experiencing mental health crises, rather than taking them to jail, where they would not receive appropriate treatment. The county’s unit opened in August.

Hyde said that since then, officials have referred 381 people to the clinic, and 75 percent of those people were accepted to the unit, resulting in 571 days of treatment rather than incarceration.

Also in the area of law enforcement, Hyde said the county is exploring outfitting sheriff vehicles and court rooms with fingerprinting devices that would allow officers to process low-level misdemeanor offenders in the field rather than requiring them to go to the jail. This would free space in the jail, which struggles with crowding problems.

Hyde blamed the jail’s responsibility to house state inmates as part of the problem. State inmates stay in the jail for a median length of 100 days, while most offenders are released within three days. Hyde said research shows that if that is allowed to continue, the state inmates will increase the jail population by 24 percent in the next decade.

On juvenile detention, Hyde said the county has increased services to youth, including adding yoga, increasing mental health services and purchasing new fitness equipment.

“While we have been able to implement these positive reforms within the detention facility, our goal is to go further to reduce the number of youth entering the system at all,” he said.

In the future, Hyde said, he hopes to implement home detention and conditionally releasing youths in the Pulaski County system.

Sheriff Eric Higgins said he would like to provide more resources for people while they are in the jail but also align them with support once they leave detention to help them become successful citizens.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said he also appreciated Hyde’s emphasis on public safety.

“And so we stand ready to collaborate as one county, one region,” Scott said.

Scott plans to increase the Little Rock police force by 100 officers over next four years, and he said he thinks this and other city efforts compliment Hyde’s ideas nicely.

Besides law enforcement, Hyde focused on public works initiatives throughout 2018. Last year, the county resurfaced 74 miles of roads.

The county also plans to add two playgrounds to Two Rivers Park, he said. The first phase of the project will be done by the end of the year, while the second phase will be completed in 2020.

“Pulaski County is poised to begin the next 200 years ripe with potential,” Hyde said in reference to the county’s bicentennial this year.

Print Headline: In address, Pulaski County exec touts progress, sets goals

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