Pulaski County jail overcrowding becomes more of a concern

PULASKI COUNTY, Ark. (KTHV) - Leaders say the overcrowding in the Pulaski County Jail could become a big problem if it continues.

The jail closed its doors last week because of too many inmates, a problem it's dealt with for years.

"This isn't the first time this has happened," said Sgt. Robert Garrett with the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office.

The Pulaski County jail has been experiencing overcrowding issues for 15 years, and it doesn't look like the situation is going to change anytime soon.

"I don't sense that there's any will in the community to a) pay more taxes or to b) get the cities to the table to renegotiate the inter-local agreement," said Pulaski County prosecuting attorney Larry Jegley.

STORY: Pulaski County jail closed to non-violent offenders

The jail is equipped to handle 1,210 inmates, but it's been dealing with more than 1,300 for some time.

Garrett has been with the Sheriff's Office for seven years, and the overcrowding hasn't only forced his comrades to tend to the jails, but it's forced him to tend to the same nuisance crimes.

"It requires the deputies to have a little bit more patience than they normally would," he said. "You know on the same token it creates frustration with the complainants that call in because it seems like we're not doing anything about it."

Wayne Ruber is the Pulaski County District court judge, and he says overcrowding is putting the power of jail-time in jeopardy.

"Without the threat or consequence of jail-time the defendants become aware that there are no punitive sanctions for which they should be concerned about," he said.

Officials say the consequences of the overcrowding haven't become apparent just yet, but they are remaining cautious knowing the situation could get worse.

"If it's long-term or if it becomes repeated on a regular basis then you're going to see, I think, additional instances of non-compliance with the court orders," continued Ruber.

Officials say to deal with the overcrowding they have had to order people to serve jail-time on the weekends only.

Right now the jail remains closed to non-violent and misdemeanor criminals.


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