Funding to open an additional women's unit next year at the Garland County jail received preliminary approval Wednesday, but officials are holding off on expanding men's housing.
The $8,257,027 budget proposal for 2020 the Garland County Quorum Court Finance Committee recommended to the full quorum court would almost double the facility's female capacity, creating another 60 beds for a population that's been on the rise for more than a year.
The 68-bed women's unit has been at or over capacity since last year. Intake restrictions enacted in February often require inmates to be released before new ones can be booked, a policy the jail has said will remain in effect until the count drops below 58. A population report The Sentinel-Record obtained through a public records request showed an average female daily population of more than 94 from Sept. 4 to Oct. 7.
The policy was briefly adopted for men in July and reinstated in September, but jail officials told justices of the peace Wednesday that more time is needed to determine if another unit for men needs to be opened. Intake restrictions for men will remain in effect until the count drops below 252, according to jail policy.
Average combined daily populations of men and women have regularly been over 400 since late spring, exceeding the jail's operational capacity of 365. The facility was built with the physical capacity to house close to 500 inmates when all eight units are open. Six are currently in use.
Chief Deputy of Corrections Steven Elrod, the agency's head of detention, told JPs that as of Monday nine inmates were being housed in the booking area as a result of overcrowding.
"We want to continue to gauge the male population trends over the next six months or so, and then we'll be happy to come back and report on how that's going," Elrod told the Finance Committee.
The wait-and-see approach comes as jail supervisors work to manage inmate counts through a triage of sorts. They make judgments on which inmates present the greatest criminal liability or propensity for violence, releasing those they consider low risk to make room for arrestees posing a graver threat.
That calculus informed Dillon Wayne Orrell's Sept. 29 release 16 hours after being booked on charges of misdemeanor criminal trespass and theft of property, according to jail logs the newspaper obtained through a records request.
Three weeks later Orrell, 31, was one of three people arrested on a capital murder charge in the Oct. 18 death of a 58-year-old Hot Springs woman. He's being held at the jail on a $500,000 bond.
The Sept. 29 jail log listed Orrell's discharge as an "early release," but the sheriff's office said he was released on a citation under the state's Rules for Criminal Procedure. They allow the ranking officer on duty to release misdemeanor arrestees on a citation. Population reports showed the average male population was 311 and 305 on Sept. 28 and 29.
"Dillon Orrell was issued a citation in lieu of continued custody due to nonviolent charges and nonviolent history," the sheriff's office said in an email response to the newspaper's request for comment.
Court records showed Orrell has about half a dozen misdemeanor convictions since December 2017. He was sentenced to a year in jail last year after he pleaded guilty to theft of property and misdemeanor drug possession. A felony drug possession charge was withdrawn as part of his plea deal.
Tony Tedford was cite released 14 hours after being booked Sept. 1 on a charge of failing to appear in district court last November. Two weeks later he was arrested on charges of first-degree domestic battery and felony theft of property after allegedly stabbing his 71-year-old father in the face and neck and stealing a pickup on Ledgerock Road.
He led the agency's Tactical Response Team, other sheriff's office personnel and Arkansas State Police on a manhunt that concluded when Tedford was taken into custody the following day at Walmart, 1601 Albert Pike Road.
Jail officials said Tedford's profile, which included no felony charges, violent history or disruptive behavior at the jail, qualified him for a citation in lieu of confinement.
Sheriff Mike McCormick told JPs Wednesday it's likely the agency will ask for additional funding to open another unit for men either next year or in 2021.
"I think there's a high probability that we'll be coming back for funding for that second unit if not later in 2020 than in 2021," he said.
The jail fund's projected 2020 revenue includes $400,000 for housing inmates awaiting transfer to the Arkansas Department of Correction and $20,000 in suspended inmate Social Security benefits. Both revenue sources currently accrue to the county general fund, where county officials have said they subsidize the sheriff's office, juvenile detention center and prosecuting attorney's office.
A consultant's report issued in March recommended both revenue sources be used in support of adult detention operations.
The jail's 2020 budget proposal includes five deputy positions transferred from the juvenile jail and a new deputy position. The six positions will enable the opening of the additional women's housing unit. Elrod told the committee staffing concerns that gave the jail pause about expanding operations have been addressed.
"This time last year staffing was a big issue," he said. "That was the main concern we had about opening up another unit. For the past 30 days we've been 100% fully staffed. We haven't lost a single supervisor since January. Recruitment and retention remain on the forefront."
Per the consultant report's recommendation, the quorum court approved longevity pay in June that moved detention deputy salaries closer to the starting patrol deputy salary. Certified detention deputies who have worked at the jail for two years received an additional $3,000 a year. Those who have been there a year got an extra $1,000. Corporal, sergeant and lieutenant salaries were also increased, and Elrod was granted a $10,000 raise.
The $8.3 million jail budget advanced Wednesday accounted for 67% of the jail fund's $11 million in projected 2020 revenue, which included a projected $5 million beginning balance.