Jail Condition and New Housing Plan Update
Jail Condition Update Information
I have a couple of reasons for wanting to give out information concerning the condition of the Cleburne County Jail: 1) As the public, it is your right and obligation to be informed on matters such as this. 2) This will be an ongoing discussion that will likely require our citizens to take action of some sort in the near future. 3) It is imperative for each person to understand exactly what is happening, and have as much information as possible to help make informed decisions.
The 2018 campaign for County Judge was a particularly interesting one, and one in which the jail was brought up repeatedly. I wanted to wait until after the election to release this information in order to dispel any accusations that this post was in support of either candidate’s campaign. This is not a political post in any way, but rather an informational post to try and keep everyone informed of what has been occurring at the jail, and what has caused so much discussion.
First, let me explain some of the logistics of the physical building. The Cleburne County Jail facility is a combination of three buildings, all constructed at three different times. The oldest part of the building was built in 1979, and I’ll refer to that section as phase 1 for this post. The second part constructed was in the early 1990s, and I’ll refer to that section as phase 2. The last and newest part constructed was in the early 2000s, and I’ll refer to that section as phase 3 of the building.
The State of Arkansas has a Jail Review Committee, who’s job it is to inspect and report on each jail facility. The Committee reports well-doing, as well as deficiencies, and allows counties room on things that are in the process of being corrected. Jail reviews will often show deficiencies such as broken plumbing or electrical fixtures (if they were broken and not repaired prior to Standards arriving to inspect the building), non-working or absent equipment, and will also address concerns that relate to inmate’s constitutional rights, such as square footage per inmate, natural and artificial lighting, etc. Plumbing in Phase 1, which is under the concrete floor, has collapsed and is in complete disrepair, which causes frequent plumbing back-ups.
For the sake of attempting to keep this post as short as possible, I will only briefly discuss reviews from before I took office in January of 2017. I will more thoroughly discuss the 2017 and 2018 reviews, and where we are looking as we move forward from here. Also included with this are excerpts from jail reviews back to 2012.
2016 and earlier reviews:
In 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2016, the jail was found to have insufficient staff levels.
2012-2016, the jail was found to be unable to separate inmates according to classifications (misdemeanor/felony, pre-trial/sentenced, etc.)
2012-2016, the jail was found to have plumbing issues that were in disrepair (most of these issues are due to the age of the facility)
2014-2016, the review committee noted that the jail has outpaced and outgrown the needs of the county
2015-2016, the review committee noted that certain areas of the jail lacked a sufficient amount of natural and/or artificial light
2016, the review committee directed the county to begin working on a corrective plan of action to address the issues of the facility and bring it into compliance with standards
In budget meetings in 2015, the Quorum Court approved two new jail positions; one jailer, and one medical assistant, with each position becoming available to fill at the beginning of 2016
In 2017 and 2018, the review committee again noted that there were insufficient staff levels, and that the jail was unable to separate inmates according to classification. The committee again noted the plumbing and lighting issues, and also noted that there is a lack of space in the jail to perform all necessary functions. The committee, in their notes, referred back to the 2014, 2015, and 2016 reviews, noting that the county had outgrown the needs of the facility, and noted that the County will be asked to present an improvement plan during 2019.
The Quorum Court approved one jailer position during budget meetings in 2016, with that position becoming available at the beginning of 2017.
Repairs were made to all leaking areas on the roof, and all current electrical issues, including replacing broken cameras and adding additional artificial light. Repairs were made to plumbing fixtures as they broke, and a significant amount of work was done to jail doors at the beginning of 2017. However, due to the design of the facility, the doors were easily damaged shortly after they were repaired.
In 2017, a local Jail Committee was formed, comprised of members of the Quorum Court with the purpose of exploring possible courses of action to help bring the facility into compliance. The Sheriff’s Office has worked diligently to repair each item possible, but struggles due to lack of space, staff, and the age and design of the facility. We have, and will continue to work closely with the state and local review committees to try and address the needs of the facility going into the future.
In regards to natural lighting, all jails are under requirements to provide a certain amount of natural lighting in each area of holding cells. When Phase 3 was constructed, most of a Phase 1 holding area was walled in, removing almost all of the natural lighting that had previously been there.
The Quorum Court approved three additional jail positions (two jailers and one administrative position) moving into 2019 in hopes that will help address the insufficient staff levels. It is important to understand here that the Quorum Court controls the number of full-time staff positions for all county offices, as well as setting the budgets for each office, including salaries, titles, etc.
I also want to clarify some important aspects of inmate classification. Inmate classification exists for several reasons, but the main reason is safety. Currently our jail has separate holding areas for sex offenders, violent offenders, women, and work release to name a few. However, due to the size design of the facility, we are only able to group and house small numbers of each of these types of inmates. In the past, this has not been much of an issue. In the past, the make-up of jail inmates was mostly misdemeanor offenders, with some felony offenders mixed in. Over the last several years, that has drastically changed, and the county has seen an increase in felony offenders, and violent offenders. The jail make-up currently is approximately 75% felony inmates, and 25% misdemeanor inmates. And because it can be extremely dangerous to house different groups together, it is vital that any jail be able to properly separate and house inmates. I strongly believe that we as a county should do everything in our power to make sure that especially violent offenders and repeat offenders should be off the street, safely in custody, helping to ensure and promote a positive public welfare.
This facility currently does not have any medical holding cells or disciplinary holding cells where a prisoner can be kept for more than 16 continuous hours. Jails frequently (and ours is no exception) house inmates with medical issues or psychiatric issues that have to be tended to. Our facility currently does not allow us to accomplish this mission, often forcing us to release inmates in lieu of holding them. Because we do not have any disciplinary holding, we are currently unable to appropriately discipline inmates who refuse to follow jail rules. Under normal circumstances, inmates who violate rules could be locked down in a confinement cell for a set number of hours, along with other disciplinary measures. We are currently limited to discipline by meal replacement (we use a substitution meal called discipline loaf), and removing non-essentials from an inmate’s possession. While this may be an appropriate disciplinary action for some violations, it is certainly not appropriate for more serious violations.
Jail is not a place for comfort. It is not a place that people should want to come back to over and over to stay because of how nice the accommodations are. But citizens expect for a place to exist where criminals, especially dangerous criminals, can be sent to be safely and effectively held. It can be easy for us to fall into the mentality of “Lock them up and throw away the key” or “Put them all in tents like that guy in Arizona” but the truth is far more complicated than that. County jails do hold people who have been found guilty of crimes and sentenced to serve time. But we also hold people who have not yet been to court. People who are presumed innocent until proven guilty in court. American citizens who have constitutional rights that must be protected. And it is the County’s priority to balance this population safely, effectively, and efficiently. And while the “tent city” idea is very popular, and well liked, most people don’t realize that “tent city” was a supplement facility; one facility among five brick and mortar facilities that are designed to hold over 9,000 total inmates. “tent city” was also at the center of many controversial conversations, and was closed in 2017.
This post is not intended to assign blame to anyone, but rather to inform each of you of the ongoing situation with the County Jail facility. The fact is that no one person is to blame in this instance. The facility has aged, and is now at a point where taking some kind of action is inevitable to continue to ensure the safety and security of the inmates, jailers, and the public. It is my priority to protect the public, and the employees of the Sheriff’s Office. As your Sheriff, I will continue working toward compliance with Standards with every resource I have available, and will continue working with the state and local review committees to see that the needs of Cleburne County are met. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me, the County Judge, or to your JP for further information.
*See below for new Jail Operational Housing Plan
*See attached PDF for some excerpts from previous years’ Standards Reviews (under the heading "media kit")
-Sheriff Chris Brown
Cleburne County Jail Operational/Housing Plan
Most experts will share that once a jail reaches about 80 percent occupancy, the jail often is “full” in terms of operation purposes. Almost always, when a jail (based on design and structural features) is fully staffed, the operational capacity/population will be lower than the number of physical beds within the site.
The Cleburne County Jail currently has 82 beds. To operate under legal, safe, and constitutional guidelines, the actual operational capacity is usually a much lower number. Operational Capacity will and does vary on a daily basis and is contingent on an inmate profile that takes into consideration a number of factors such as, age, sex, physical condition, presence of communicable disease, flight risk potential, propensity for violent acts, previous convictions, pending charges, and serious mental health issues.
For 2018, the average daily population was 67 (49 male, 18 female)
YTD population for 2019 is 74, (53 male, 21 female)
For a safe and effective operation, the Cleburne County Detention Center requires a minimum of 3 to 4 detention officers on the floor, depending on time of day. This consists of one person who remains in the control room to operate electronic jail controls, while 2 to 3 other detention officers work the floor of the jail.
The jail currently consists of 10 separate secure areas, of varying capacities. Under the new housing plan, the jail would consist of 5 separate housing areas which comply with Jail Standards as long-term housing areas.
Four additional holding areas, which due to no shower facilities, no hot and cold running water, and a lack of natural lighting do not comply with jail standards as long-term housing will be available to hold inmates on a short-term basis only. Short term is defined as less than 16 hours. Aside from jail standards, each detention center needs dedicated space for holding areas. These areas are essential in terms of brief inmate separation, intense-temporary observation, dress-in/dress-out purposes, transport processes, inmate search areas, special care needs, and like aspects.
The available housing is as follows:
Long Term Housing
Block 1: Maximum capacity 8 – Anticipated population 4-8
Block 2: Maximum capacity 8 – Anticipated population 6-8
Block 3: Maximum capacity 4 – Anticipated population 1-4
Block 5: Maximum capacity 4 – Anticipated population 1-4
A Pod: Maximum capacity 32 – Anticipated population 14-32
New Maximum Facility Capacity: Long Term Housing: 56
Short Term Housing, 16 Hours MAXIMUM
Block 4, Maximum capacity 4 – Anticipated population 1-4
Holding 1, Maximum capacity, 1
Holding 2, Maximum capacity, 1
Detox, Maximum capacity, 1
New Maximum Facility Capacity: Short Term Housing: 7
A separate area is used to house up to 6 inmates on Trustee status. Due to construction, design and location this area does not qualify as a secure area and as such cannot be used to house general population inmates.
New total facility capacity: 63 (56 long term, 7 short term), plus up to 6 trustees.
This housing plan allows for the housing of at least 6 different classes of inmates (including trustees housed in an unsecured area). Upon implementation, the jail would become a male holding facility only, with limited space for the temporary housing of a small number (1-7) of females for the amount of time (16 hours or less) it takes to arrange their transport to an outside facility. No longer holding females effectively reduces the number of separate housing areas needed to legally and constitutionally operate the Detention Facility by 50%. Female detainees brought to the jail by the county officers, on pending county charges would be transported to another facility by the Sheriff’s Office and housed there at county expense. Female detainees brought to the jail pending charges from other agencies (including all state agencies and DTF) would be transported by the arresting agency. When appropriate the arresting agency will be responsible for housing costs.
Initial talks with the White County Sheriff’s Office have tentatively brought about the following cost estimate for housing women in their facility: Approximately $35 per day per inmate, with a maximum bed space of 12 women is $153,300 annual housing cost. The daily cost per inmate proposed by White County was their daily cost for housing, which they believed to be approximately $30 per day per inmate. That cost is calculated once per year by each jail, which means the cost could vary slightly from year to year, but this cost is currently lower than Cleburne County’s daily rate of approximately $47 per day per inmate. Upon agreement of this housing plan, Our Sheriff’s Office will work with White County to come to an exact amount, which could be presented to the county judge for an agreement to be entered into.
Transport costs are unknown at this time. However, Cleburne County is currently working on implementing a video court system (purchased by AAC with no cost to the county), which will help to alleviate some transport expense. We can also more aggressively manage the female inmate population, which we have presently been unable to do due to housing limitations.
The inmate housing area known as “B Pod”, maximum capacity 22, which is currently used to house females, will cease to become prisoner housing. The tables and bunks will be removed, and the room will be turned into a multi-purpose room, as well as much needed administrative storage.
The overall bed capacity for the facility of 63 physical beds located in a secure area, does not provide any capability to house any inmate with chronic medical conditions requiring special medical equipment, disabilities, severe mental illness, physical injuries, or communicable disease. Housing arrangements made to accommodate any of the above conditions will result in an additional loss of bed space. As such, and as needed, these inmates will be housed outside of the county.
Estimated completion time for this transition is 3 months after approval. This time frame should allow us to finalize an agreement with White County (or another outside agency) and begin to transition women to that facility, and allow us to convert B Pod into a multi-purpose room and administrative storage. During or before the completion time, the Sheriff will meet with all Law Enforcement Agency heads within the county to discuss and explain these changes and course of action.
The goal of this housing plan is to bring the Cleburne County Jail into compliance with Jail Standards in a timely manner, provide much needed updates in terms of safety, provide modifications with concern to site success, in addition to the granting of upgrades in terms of legal facets, all while incurring the smallest amount of cost to the physical building that exists as the jail currently. This plan would allow for the existing building to be used as is, with minimal costs incurred to the county; expenses being repairs to some failing plumbing, basic building fixtures/components, and modular/moveable walls to separate storage from the multi-purpose room.
As a note, prior to the plan officially being set into motion, and after being approved, the Sheriff’s Office will engage with the State and/or a local Fire Marshal to ensure that staffing levels, etc. are sufficient in terms of being able to safely evacuate all prisoners.
Sheriff Chris Brown