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Not enough room in county jail to segregate women

<p style="text-align: left;" >photo by TANIAH TUDOR</p><p style="text-align: left;" >Cpl. Cecillia Ramirez takes lunch trays in the only cell pod containing female inmates in the Crawford County Detention Center.</p>

photo by TANIAH TUDOR

Cpl. Cecillia Ramirez takes lunch trays in the only cell pod containing female inmates in the Crawford County Detention Center.

While segregation of male inmates may be a problem area for officers at the Crawford County Detention Center, for female inmates it is a moot point.

Women make up only about 15 percent of the prisoner population at the jail, said Sheriff Ron Brown.

Because of this, and because compared to the male inmates, female inmates generally are less violent and fewer have sex offences, Brown said segregating the women is a low priority.

“We segregate them sight and sound from the men, and that’s the best we can do,” Brown said.

Most women, like the other inmates, are only being held in the jail because they are convicted felons sentenced to the Arkansas Department of Correction or are awaiting trial for felony charges.

Normally the women are rotated between 12-person and 18-person cell pods, depending on how many women are in the jail at any given time, but Capt. Brandon Trent, the jail administrator, said that may no longer be the case.

Crawford County currently houses 12 female inmates, and because the jail has become so full, that may be the maximum they can hold for a while.

“We’re just about to the point with the state backup we can’t swap them around,” Trent said. “We just don’t have the cell blocks.”

State jail regulations require that all inmates are segregated under seven categories: pretrial, sentenced, medical for those with special health needs, misdemeanor offenders, felons, administrative segregation for witnesses to crimes inside the jail or inmates with behavior issues, and protective custody, which is generally used for sex offenders to protect them from the other inmates.

But Brown and Trent said there just is not enough room inside the jail to segregate women. The jail holds only one single-person segregation cell, usually occupied by a male, and no female drunk tank, Brown said.

When an instance of segregation does come up out of necessity, such as violent behavior, the offending female is placed alone in a two-person cell within the pod and locked down.

That usually means one woman who was occupying the cell gets bonded out, and the second bed in the cell is left open, Trent said.

While that may mean a liability for the county, Brown said that is their only option for now.

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