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Jail overcrowding leads to three deputies being hit by an inmate

The Washington County Detention Center is dealing with major overcrowding with more than 100 inmates sleeping on the floor.

WASHINGTON COUNTY, ARKANSAS, Ark. — Three deputies are injured after a fight broke out at the Washington County Detention Center.  

Bodycam video shows an inmate punching a deputy leading to a scuffle to start. Two deputies have broken noses, and another had to go to the emergency room to get stitches from the altercation that happened last Friday, Jan. 7.

Sheriff Tim Helder says fights aren’t that uncommon but they are more frequent now because of overcrowding and not enough staff. 

“If you put together the very high numbers that are overcrowding in our jail and then the very low numbers within our staff it just creates a perfect storm for the folks who are living here, our detainees, overcrowding causes angst and anxiety and anger and for our employees, it’s overworked fatigue,” Helder said. 

Helder says they are at an all-time high of close to 800 inmates with 580 inmates being the optional number they’d like to be at to meet standards. There are 144 inmates sleeping on the floor. In the pod where the fight broke out there were 57 inmates in a pod meant for 32. 

Hedler also says they are currently 44 positions short within their detention center and says they got their inmate numbers down during COVID by releasing some with non-violent crimes. 

“They’ve slowly but surely come back, failing to appear, the dockets have been full, so we’ve just got more people and then you add in that the department of corrections hasn’t been taking anybody in, so we’re backlogged there,” Hedler said. 

The criminal justice coordinating committee is looking at what to do to help with this continuing issue. A COVID mitigation expansion is coming in the near future that reconfigures their current space. This will be paid for with funds from the American Rescue Plan. 

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