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Madison County Jail: Understaffed and Overcrowded
HUNTSVILLE, AR (KNWA) - A northwest Arkansas jail is strapped for cash and looking for a solution.
The Madison County Jail is on probation after state officials say the jail is overcrowded and understaffed.
County leaders have until Aug. 25 to meet state standards or the facility could be shutdown. The jail has dealt with this overcrowding situation since it opened 30 years ago.
"If the tax doesn't pass...they're probably going to shut our jail down," says Sheriff Phillip Morgan.
State officials inspected the jail last week. They cited it for lack of space and being understaffed. Now, this decades old building is on probation, and the clock is ticking.
"Right now our dispatchers are jailers too. And they have to answer 911, they have to answer to, you know, fire departments, EMS, and everything," explains Sheriff Morgan.
A staff shortage is not the only problem for the jail. Sheriff Morgan says it's taking in too many inmates, and is forced to send some to surrounding jails, like Washington County's.
"That's just a voluntary type between me and the sheriff to do that, you know and a lot of times they can't hold them 'cause they're overcrowded too!," he says.
With an August deadline from the state looming, Sheriff Morgan needs a quick fix. He's turning to the quorum court for help, hoping to hire two new deputies.
"I've lost two deputies in the last two years in budget cuts. When we send somebody to Washington County or Carroll County with a prisoner, that's two hours or more, that he's not doing anybody any good in Madison County, because he's on the road," says Morgan. "You know I don't like to pay taxes either. Most people don't. But if we don't pay taxes we're not going to have anything. And if we don't have a jail, that's going to put a burden on the whole county."
But in November, voters will have the option to increase the county's sales tax by one cent. A portion of those funds would go toward jail improvements.
The court would decide on Monday, Aug. 4 if the county is given two more officers to handle dispatch and intake. As for the jail, they have until Nov. 5 to comply with the standards set by the state.