Jails at Logan and Scott counties experience a fairly high turnover rate for correctional officers.
Jailers stay on average less than a year at the Scott County jail in Waldron and about two years at the Logan County jail in Paris.
There are 13 full-time correction officer positions at the Scott County jail, which was built in 2010 and has capacity for 76 inmates. According to the Scott County Clerk, jailers at the Scott County Detention Center start out making $8.88 an hour, which is $18,467 a year. After two years, the jailers there make $8.95 an hour, or about $18,617 a year.
In the smaller Logan County Detention Center, which is 28 years old and has a capacity of 34 inmates, there are nine full-time correctional officers who are paid a salary of $26,200 a year, according to the Logan County Clerk’s Office. There are also two part-time jailers. The county budget provides $10,000 for “extra help” at $9.50 an hour.
Logan County Sheriff Boyd Hicks noted that administrative personnel stay “much longer” than the two-year average for correctional officers. The Logan County jail’s annual budget is is $671,265.
Scott County Jail Administrator Shane Davis stated in a Times Record jail survey that he feels jailers are “leaving for more money” and his correctional officers often get a start in law enforcement at the jail.
Despite the higher pay at Logan County, “pay, shift or stress” are listed as reasons by Hicks for the two-year average stay of his jailers.
“It is a dangerous job that is seriously underpaid,” Hicks wrote of the correctional officer positions.
With a new voter-approved Logan County jail in the planning stages at Paris, Hicks noted several factors that will “substantially” reduce the “stress factor” on correctional officers. One of those includes “not having to have one-on-one contact with inmates to move them to shower, yard, cell to cell, etc.” because these things will be done from a control tower.
Logan County Judge Ray Gack recently got a look at revised plans for the new Logan County Jail to be built in Paris. He also got a look at the cost estimate, which is $10.9 million to build the 100-bed facility. As reported by the Paris Express last week, that price is still $900,000 more than what Gack wants the jail will cost. The county judge had asked for a revision of plans and a cost estimate after initial bids showed a 132-bed facility would cost about $13.8 million, $800,000 more than the county has to spend and $3.8 million more than Gack wants to spend.
Hicks noted staff stress reduction possibilities at a new jail could also come from the ability to separate inmates based on classification — felons, misdemeanors, males, females, adjudicated, non-adjudicated, mental status, violent felons, etc.
“Having a clean, functional facility where everything works like it’s supposed to (doors, showers, toilets, drains, lights, air conditioning, etc.) would also reduce staff stress,” Hicks wrote.
“Finally, just having enough room to operate efficiently with proper storage for inmate property, jail uniforms, mats, laundry, kitchen, etc. … All of which we do not have now,” Hicks added.
The Logan County sheriff isn’t worried too much, though, about a want for criminals to lock up when a new jail is built. Logan County has more than 1,500 outstanding warrants at any given time, including those from the Booneville, Magazine and Paris police departments.
Although it is not something they have kept record of, Hicks said he can recall on several occasions re-arresting suspects who were either out on bond or released because of overcrowding at the Logan County jail.
While it is possible for Scott County jailers to separate violent and non-violent offenders, that is only possible on a “very limited basis” at Logan County jail. Most of the inmates at both jails are males, and neither jail holds juveniles.
Both jails are reimbursed $30 a day for inmates being held for the Arkansas Department of Correction. Scott County charges $35 a day to hold inmates from other counties, Davis added, and they have held for 11 other counties in the past. They also hold federal inmates. A half-cent sales tax pays for operation of the Scott County jail, which has an annual budget of $863,254 for operation and maintenance.
The Scott County jail’s inmate population fluctuates based on circuit court schedules, but recently numbered 25 with full capacity expected in July as its circuit court returns to session.
At Scott County, prisoners are offered one hour of outside in the exercise yard, and a nurse is on duty three days a week to see all inmates. According to the survey, the most common mental-health issue among prisoners reported by staff at the Scott County jail is “anxiety.” There is no regularly scheduled visits by a mental-health specialist at the Scott County jail.
“Drug addiction and the multitude of associated illnesses” are the most common reported health issues at the Logan County jail. Hicks said he was unaware of this causing any health issues with staff “other than stress.”
One hour of exercise in the yard for inmates and weekly nurse practitioner visits are also provided at the Logan County jail to attend to medical needs, and Hick said mental-health specialist visits are requested when needed.