LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas Department of Correction officials have discussed building a new regional jail with several counties in the southeast part of the state.

Judges, sheriffs and lawmakers from Drew, Bradley, Lincoln, Chicot and Cleveland counties met Thursday to discuss the jail, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .

Department officials said the potential 600-bed facility would house mostly state Department of Correction inmates. It also would have a certain number of reserved spots for participating counties.

The idea for the regional jail comes as counties struggle with jail space limitations.

Two of the five counties agreed to move forward with plans. A third county is needed to negotiate a contract.

Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, R-Hermitage, said that several private corporations have expressed interest in running a regional jail since the meeting Thursday.

Arkansas Board of Corrections Chairman Benny Magness said the state has offered to provide up 500 inmates for a regional jail.

Drew County Judge Robert Akin said state inmates would need to be included in the project to increase the prisoner count and attract private jail operators.

Drew County has a 43-bed jail and spends about $60 a day to incarcerate each inmate, Akin said.

Counties and private contractors must meet standards, including health care access and dietary rules that are set by the department, in order to hold state inmates. Under a contract with a regional jail, the state would pay for daily costs of housing state inmates along with contracted counties.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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