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Benton County Jail expansion to be in the hands of voters

Benton County leaders are hoping voters will approve expanding the county jail, which has been battling overcrowding issues for several years.

BENTON COUNTY, ARKANSAS, Ark. — A Benton County committee is looking to take action on the jail overcrowding issue they’ve been facing for several years. 

Benton County officials are looking at expanding the jail and moving criminal courts along with prosecutors and public defenders from downtown Bentonville to the jail. 

The Benton County Jail has room for 669 inmates but over the last 6 months, they’ve been holding between 700 and 750 inmates on average.  

“We’ve moved to the point where all of our low-level crimes, misdemeanors…they aren’t coming to the county jail. If they are, they are getting booked in and getting released a very short time later because we have to make room for those, we can’t do that with,” said Sheriff Shawn Holloway. 

Sheriff Shawn Holloway says the Benton County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee has been looking at growth trends and based on those trends for the next 20 years the jail would need to at least double its capacity. 

“We’re still in the infancy stages with the architects and some of the data we are waiting to come back with, but we are very confident at that lower number, it’s going to be something that we can’t pay for out of what we currently have,” he said. 

Holloway would like to have a mental health wing, sobering centers and more space for programming like drug and alcohol rehabilitation and even expand drug court. If the quorum court approves the ballot measure language, the jail expansion would be put on the November ballot. 

“We’re approaching a point where it’s going to be a real issue for our community based on crime stats that we are seeing. We feel like doing it this year instead of weighting say until 2024 that time is of the essence in getting something moving now,” he said. 

No estimates for the project have been given yet but it is likely expanding the jail would likely take around three years. The Benton County Quorum Court would need to approve the language for the ballot by the end of August to put the measure on the November 2022 ballot. 

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