VAN BUREN, Ark. — Crawford County, Ark., corrections officials cut the ribbon on the new Crawford County Detention Center in Van Buren on Nov. 4. The 300-bed facility was initially budgeted at more than $20.5 million, but was completed under budget for approximately $17.4 million, saving the county more than $3.1 million despite the addition of an impound yard and radio tower not originally built into the plans. All savings will likely be paid back to the project’s bonding company, allowing the county to pay off the facility’s debt more quickly.
In addition to 300 new inmate beds, the 63,600-square-foot project also includes updated inmate records software, a 911-response center, sheriff’s offices and a first appearance courtroom to minimize inmate movement between the jail and courthouse. The new jail sits on a roughly 6.5-acre portion of a 16-acre site that leaves plenty of room for future expansion, and will receive its first inmates in early December.
Efforts have been underway to construct a new facility since the mid 1970s, as the long-overcrowded existing jail contains just 88 beds. County leaders took the issue to voters following a failed July 2013 jail inspection that highlighted the existing building’s many deficiencies, such as lack of space to properly segregate inmates and staff shortages. The existing jail had several times been placed on probation as well, and had operated under continuous probation since November 2011, according to the Press Argus.
County leaders agreed to the project’s budget in January 2014. In May 2014, local voters also leant their support to a multi-pronged tax initiative to fund the construction and long-term operation of a new and improved facility.
“It’s been three years since this thing got off the ground,” Crawford County Judge John Hall said at the facility’s opening celebration, as reported by the Press Argus. “It’s been done with teamwork, it’s been done with cooperation and it’s been done with all of looking to benefit the residents of Crawford County,” Hall said.
Hall also noted at the event that the voter-funded project provided an economic boost for the community. “About 75 percent of every dollar that was spent on this project went to one of three counties — Crawford, Sebastian or Franklin,” he said, as reported by the Press Argus.
Construction on the new jail kicked off in December 2014 and reached its halfway point in January 2016. It was designed and constructed by SouthBuild TEAM LLC, which includes Smith-Doyle Contractors Inc. of Cordova, Tenn., and SpiritArchitecture Group of Collierville, Tenn.
“I’m really pleased with the way the building has progressed and the final product we have out there,” Hall told the Press Argus ahead of the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “It’s going to be a great asset to the sheriff’s department and the county.”