More prison space will likely depend on the tax vote

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TEXARKANA, Ark. – With the Miller County Correctional Building currently holding more than 320 inmates in a cell designed to hold 285 inmates at most, county officials plan to add another 100 jail beds.

Members of the quorum tribunal recently sat down with Jim Langford, chief architect of the SouthBuild team of architects in Collierville, Tennessee, to listen to plans to expand the 20-year prison by adding at least one more pod to contain at least 100 other detainees.

Along with more holding rooms for inmates, Langford said the prison will also need an update of electronic security systems to a more modern digital system. The expansion and digital update projects are expected to cost between $ 6.5 million and $ 7.5 million.

Miller County Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Mark Lewis said most of the increase in inmates is mostly medium risk and low risk inmates, not high risk.

Langford said a new pod would likely need to be built on the southwest side of the detention center – where there is more expansion space.

Besides the remote possibility of federal financial aid to help build the additional pod, a quorum court member agreed the issue could be left to county residents in the form of an election limited to a quarter of a cent sales tax.

“We have to make sure it’s done right because it looks like we can’t do it without the support of the public,” Miller County Justice of the Peace John Haltom said. “We are at a very crucial moment right now.”

Langford agreed.

“We are looking at, at the very least, a year before we get there, because we need public approval,” he said.

In 2000, county voters approved a half-cent sales tax with a quarter of the tax as a permanent tax to maintain the current prison, while the other part of that sales tax was limited to pay for the construction of the prison. .

The quarter-cent sales tax for construction was temporary. it was withdrawn when the prison, built on US Highway 71 south of Texarkana, was paid off.

Miller County Sheriff Jackie Runion agreed with Haltom.

“If we ask for another choice of sales tax, we will have to make sure that this tax is a temporary tax, which will only be used to pay for the expansion of the prison and the update of security, and that is everything, ”he said.

Miller County Budget and Finance Committee chairman Ernest Pender said convincing residents of the need to expand prisons may not be too difficult given what is currently going on at the level national.

“It might be easier to sell to the public as they are well aware of the crime rate in the country,” he said.

(Look for extensive coverage on the needs of the Miller County Detention Center over the weekend.)


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