Inmate custody reaching record-high in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) -- The Arkansas Department of Correction saysthe nearly 17,000 inmates in custody right now are putting a major strain onprisons.

Channel 7 reported twomonths ago that county jails were experiencing a large increase of inmatesbecause of a new law requiring a revocation hearing before parole violators canbe released. It's a number reaching historical levels inside county cells andour prison system.

Prison cells are so overcrowdedat this point, Arkansas detention centers tell us they're turning inmates away.Those destined for years behind bars are instead being held in county jails.

"Having a largernumber of people does create more stress. There are greater risks to staff, andto inmates because of the stresses and strains that go along with having thosehigher numbers," said Arkansas Department of Correction spokesperson, SheaWilson.

Wilson told us there's asole factor contributing to the 16,867 in custody, a number that's rising.

"Recent measures inthe parole system they are revamping their system and bringing more people inso that of course puts more pressure on our agency," she added.

Arkansas Senator David Sanderswas a strong advocate this summer that too many people were on parole, and insteadshould be behind bars. He's sticking to that stance and believes funding tohold more inmates needs to be allocated.

"Again I think whatwe have to do is potentially re purposing facilities. We can't afford not to doit because public safety is so important. Everything we do is figuring out whatthe true cost is, and prioritization of what we should be doing," Sanders saidon Friday.

To help ease much of thispressure, ADC continues to use a system that actually paroles inmates that meetrequirements for up to a year early.