Department of Correction ready to begin plans for a new prison

NEWPORT (KATV) -- There's not enough roomfor all the inmates in the prison system, but the Arkansas Department ofCorrection believe it has a solution.

In a board of correctionsmeeting Thursday, it approved to begin planning for a new prison in Arkansasbecause overcrowding is putting too much of a strain on the system.

With the unanimous votethe board plans on spending $5 to $6 million in the next year to make plans forthe building of a 1,000 bed prison.

The ADC reports inmatesare coming in at nearly seven times what the prison has projected, and theissue of overcrowding is too much for county jails to handle.

"The board ofcorrection will now start entertaining a new 1,000 bed prison in the state ofArkansas," Department of Correction Board Chairman Benny Magness said.

Magness told ADC membersthat he sat down with Governor Mike Beebe Wednesday to get advice on what theboard should do moving forward. With the recommendation of the governor Magnesssaid it decided to get the ball rolling on more bed space.

"You know in likefour years we'll be at 18,000 (inmates). We don't have 18,000 beds, you knowthat's another 2,000 beds so we have to do that now," he added.

More than 2,700 inmatesare currently in county jails awaiting bed space in the prison system. The newparole system, that has more inmates awaiting a revocation hearing, combinedwith lengthier sentences among younger inmates, the prison system saysovercrowding is a problem it doesn't see going away anytime soon.

"We'll be hopefullyprepared by the next legislative session to ask to know then if we need tocontinue forward, which I really believe we will," Magness said.

Location of a new prison {}is too far out to tell right now, but ChairmanMagness said the planning and building could take up to four years, andestimates a new prison will cost between $75-$85 million.