After changes made last year to the state's parole system county jails have seen an influx of inmates. Sheriffs are reporting overcrowding and Governor Mike Beebe has proposed additional funds.
In his weekly radio address Beebe linked the fate of the private option Medicaid expansion to prisons.
“I explained to the sheriffs that if the private option fails the additional funds to ease overcrowding and ensure payment for housing state inmates will be much harder to find. Without the private option, there will be an $89 million hole in the proposed budget,” said Beebe.
Governor Beebe also made a connection between mental health care funds related to health care reform and criminal activity.
“The community health centers would likely have to cut critical services. And when fewer people can find mental-health services they need, they often find themselves in trouble. Which brings it all back to our county jails and our sheriffs, who would face the specter of still more people entering our backed-up correction system,” said Beebe.
He is calling for an additional seven million dollars to buy more beds for inmates and to compensate counties for taking care of inmates originally intended to be sent to state prison.
Both the increased prison budget as well as the re-authorization of the private option will be before legislators in the fiscal session beginning February 10th.