Jun 5, 2024 - News

Fayetteville women's correctional facility faces uncertain future

Illustration of a prison fence with the fence shaped into dollar signs.

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Washington County justices of the peace this week signaled a timeout on deciding whether to retain the women's Community Correction Center.

Why it matters: Arkansas Community Correction centers are licensed treatment facilities providing post-release and probation supervision, housing inmates sentenced for nonviolent and nonsexual offenses.

  • The Fayetteville facility can hold 114 inmates and is one of only two of its kind for women in Arkansas. The other in West Memphis is roughly three times larger.

Four similar facilities for men are located throughout the state and another is under construction.

State of play: Washington County Judge Patrick Deakins in March sent the state written notice that the county intends to terminate the $1 annual lease for the facility at 114 N. College Ave. at the end of the year due to the cost of housing inmates who've been sentenced to serve time in state Department of Corrections facilities.

  • Some Northwest Arkansas residents, former employees and former inmates of the facility oppose the closure. Justices were able to hear public feedback during the Quorum Court meeting Monday night.
  • The JPs agreed to delay for three months a feasibility study for potential new uses of the facility.

Context: Deakins raised the issue of the lease in an email to the state regarding the county housing inmates at the Washington County Detention Center who will eventually be transferred to state facilities.

  • It's an ongoing issue at many jails across Arkansas because the state's prisons are full. In April, about 1,800 such inmates were housed in county jails.

By the numbers: Arkansas reimburses counties $40 per day for housing state inmates, but in 2020, the daily cost to Washington County was nearly $95 per inmate, per day.

  • The shortfall in 2023 was estimated at $3 million.
  • Deakins said in the email that Arkansas should make up the per-day cost to the county in its lease payment.

What they're saying: "Speaking as a citizen, we don't need to get rid of this facility," Greg Tabor, former warden of the facility, said at the meeting.

  • "I've never said we changed their lives. We helped them change their lives."

What we're watching: A spokesperson for the state Department of Corrections told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette it has not made any decision on whether to relocate the facility, but that Pine Bluff and West Memphis are possibilities if the lease isn't renewed.

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