BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Plans are nearing completion for the construction of two much-needed expansions to the Benton County Jail in Bentonville. Benton County officials have been researching the potential expansion of their county correctional facility since early 2015, and the projects are expected to officially go to bid in late January 2016. When complete, the expansions will offer more space for both misdemeanor offenders and female inmates.
"We’re anticipating those plans to be finished by Jan. 11 so we can go out for bids," County Judge Bob Clinard told Arkansas Online earlier this month. Clinard added that, in addition to the current projects, the county is also working on long-term expansion plans that could include the construction of a new pod to house a currently undetermined number of inmates.
Overcrowding has long plagued the county, at times impacting sentencing. In April 2015, the county outlined a plan to relocate administrative and non-jail functioning offices into a single space, thus creating a new facility for inmates that have been found guilty of a misdemeanor crime. That plan, now completed, created space for approximately 30 additional inmates and allowed the courts to function more effectively. This smaller-scale project was also intended to serve as a more immediate, short-term solution as the county awaited approval for a more extensive, long-term expansion project.
After funding for the proposed expansions is approved, the formal bidding process is complete and a team is selected, the county expects to spend seven months in construction. The project will ultimately add space for 45 additional inmates, and provide more secure cells with double bunks for female inmates, allowing the county to hold up to 12 women simultaneously.
"The time frame is 100 percent dependent on when we get the plans finished," Clinard told Arkansas Online. "We’ll go out for bids and then take it to the Quorum Court.” Clinard added that the county tentatively expects to receive bids around the first of February and will likely select a project team by the end of February. If all goes according to plan, the expansions should be completed and occupied by the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017.
A further jail expansion also under consideration could eventually add another housing pod specifically for felony offenders. Details as to that prospective project’s size, location or capacity will likely be provided by the selected architect as the first project progresses.