Benton County looks at ideas to expand jail

Inmates strain capacity, captain says

By Tracy M. Neal
NWA Democrat-Gazette

BENTONVILLE -- Benton County sheriff's office officials are developing a plan to address a growing jail population.

"We are turning away people -- nonviolent misdemeanors," said Jeremy Guyll, the jail captain. "We are often pushing the maximum number of inmates."

The maximum number is 669, but that doesn't mean every bed is occupied. Some must remain empty. One inmate may be held in a two-person cell for his own protection or for disciplinary reasons, Guyll said.

There were 631 inmates in the jail May 18 and 641 the next day.

Guyll believes the county is a few years from needing another pod, which is a housing system for jails.

An attached pod to expand the jail is probably the most expensive option, Guyll said. If the county builds one, he said, it should build for a large number, such as 400 inmates. A larger pod would accommodate the population growth for a decade or more, he said.

Sgt. Shannon Jenkins, a spokesman for the Benton County sheriff's office, said building a jail and offices in Crawford County cost $20 million. The jail opened in November 2016.

Another option is a mobile pod, which some jails across the country are using instead of constructing space.

Guyll said that if the jail population continues to grow each year by 7%, he believes the county will need to expand the jail or use the mobile pods.

"We can use one right now," he said.

Guyll said the mobile pods would be put together at the sheriff's office. The pods are constructed by placing semitrailers side by side and fusing them into one housing facility.

Bob Bersi, a major with the sheriff's office, said officials are in the early stages of gathering information to present the Quorum Court. He said Sheriff Shawn Holloway also wants to tour a jail using temporary pods.

The Decatur County sheriff's office in Indiana, with a population about a tenth the size of Benton County, put up two mobile pods for about $2 million. The pods are separated and have a total of 48 beds -- 24 for men and 24 for women, Decatur County Sheriff Dave Durant said.

The pods are like puzzle pieces outfitted for a jail, said Chris Grabosky, the project manager for site developer Maxwell Construction.

"You bring them to the site, set them in place, plug them in, and there you are -- housing for 48 extra inmates," Grabosky told Indiana's Greensburg Daily News. READ MORE.

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