Sheriff tells JPs female inmates are back and jail is at full staff; recycling, school resource officers and more also discussed

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Independence County Sheriff Shawn Stephens told the Independence County Quorum Court Monday that female inmates are back at the county jail, and it is at full staff.

Female inmates have been housed in neighboring counties for several weeks because of a shortage of jail matrons. With full staffing, the female inmates were moved back into the jail.

Stephens said the jail is holding 64 male inmates and 14 females. There are six community service (CS) workers being held in the CS barracks. The sheriff said he and his staff have been working on a plan to allow the CS workers to leave the jail and resume working off their fines.

The sheriff stopped allowing the CS workers to leave the jail because they were often bringing contraband back into the jail. This resulted in a suspension of curbside pickup of recycling materials by the county because CS workers were used to pick up the materials.

Stephens said he could release the CS inmates to work as long as the number of those housed at the jail is limited, and they can prevent contraband from being brought to the jail.

County Judge Robert Griffin said he has been talking to state jail standards personnel about increasing the space in the CS barracks by using double bunk beds. He asked the sheriff his opinion.

Stephens said he would want to make sure jail standards, including the required amount of space per inmate, were being met. He also said he’d like the opinion of the Rainwater and Associates law firm that would be called upon to defend the county if it is sued.

In other action, the quorum court approved a resolution authorizing the adoption and implementation of new voting equipment in the county.

The court approved the purchase of new voting machines in July. The 55 machines have arrived and will be ready for use in the November general election. The machines are being purchased for $69,500. Another $5,000 was appropriated to pay for debt service on a $70,000 bank loan.

The resolution states that the Secretary of State’s office solicited bids for a new voting system and awarded a contract to Election Systems and Software. Arkansas counties, including Independence, are implementing the new equipment on a cost-share basis.

The previous equipment used by the county will revert back to the state to be traded in towards the purchase price of the new equipment.

The court also approved an amendment to an ordinance and the annual budget for 2018 to implement a pay increase for the Batesville school resource officers.

In response to a question, Sheriff Stephens said Batesville has three resource officers. There are a total of seven in the county. The school districts pay the officers’ salaries, but they are included in the county’s annual budget.

The ordinance says two of the officers’ yearly base salaries will increase from $35,046 to $35,484. One of the officer’s annual base salary will increase from $36,984 to $37,446.

Reporting by Bob Qualls

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