By Roxanne Squires
WEST HELENA, Ark. — Phillips County of Arkansas recently broke ground on a 100-bed, state-of-the-art detention center nearly five years after the county facility shuttered its previously due to deficient locks, overflowing drains and other unsafe conditions.
Clark Hall, a Phillips County judge, said that the new facility, which sits on 10.84 acres of land, will have 80 beds for men and 20 beds for women, and will also create 15 new jobs, as reported by US News & World Report.
Following the closure of the county jail in 2013, Phillips County officials have had to either transfer inmates to other Arkansas correctional facilities or release them.
Officials calculated in 2015 that the county spent $750,000 a year to transport and house inmates in facilities in Wynne, Forrest City and other nearby towns.
In 2017, Phillips County residents passed a proposal that made a countywide 1 percent sales tax permanent, and diverted five-eighths of the revenue generated by the tax from cities and the port authority toward the construction, operation and maintenance of the new facility, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Additionally, the county will repurpose a facility that is already standing on the land to serve as a sheriff’s office, courtroom, morgue, etc.
Hall also stated that this new facility is a part of a master plan to bring in other services – including the possibility of a new juvenile facility as well as an education and drug rehab center.
The walls will be block–filled with concrete and rebar. The roof will be made out of concrete and the security door is going to weigh around 400 pounds and the facility will utilize a sophisticated, but user-friendly security system.
The new facility will also include features that allow you to push one button that triggers all the doors to open and leads to a secured, fenced area for inmates to transfer to in case of a fire or other emergency.
The facility’s primary construction and renovation costs are projected to run about $8.8 million.
Reports from the US News and World Report and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette contributed to this story.