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— We hope, as this is being the written, that the state Department of Correction has seen fit to reinstate the 309 inmate program in Ouachita County.

And we hope we’re correct in assuming that local officials have taken steps to make sure action has been taken to eliminate the situation that caused the state to declare that Ouachita County 309 inmate program in violation.

According to the ADC’s website, the 309 program, “Contracts throughout the state of Arkansas for housing and supervision of ADC inmates in county and city jails. According to the ADC, the 309 program “increases the number of prison beds, reduces the cost of incarceration, and assists sheriffs with manpower while saving local dollars. It also places some inmates closer to their families, and improves public relations with the counties. Inmates convicted of capital murder, first-degree murder, sexual offense, or who have attempted escape, or are serving a life sentence or were given the death penalty are prohibited from serving in the program.”

The program, as far as we’ve been able to tell, has been a win-win for Ouachita County and the state for the reasons stated above. But a situation the state found objectionable came to its attention and caused ADC to stop the 309 program in our county.

Frankly, it is surprising that the situation was ever allowed to exist by local powers-that-be.

We’ll let the words of Dina Tyler, ADC public information officer, in an email response to the Camden News, explain the situation. Here is an excerpt from that email:

“Neither the jail nor the sheriff’s office is at fault. The suspension stems from the hiring of a particular female employee by another office in the jail complex. Back in 2016, this woman was an employee at the detention center and was found to be having an inappropriate relationship with a male 309 inmate.

“In connection with that relationship, the woman pleaded guilty to furnishing an article of escape and was placed on ten months’ probation. Due to her past actions, we do not think it is wise to have her working in such close proximity to the 309 inmates. As you may know, some of them work outside the confines of the jail.”

Sharing the building with the Ouachita County Sheriff’s Office at the detention is the court facility. So it appears, at some point, somebody in an office other than the jail made the decision that it was OK to employ a woman who had worked in the same building, had an improper relationship with a male inmate and pleaded guilty to giving him an article of escape. We agree with the state in thinking such a hire next door in the same building where she committed the infractions to be unwise. And that’s putting it mildly.

Giving someone a second chance could usually be considered an admirable trait. But hiring somebody who pleaded guilty to improper actions with an inmate to work in a different office, but in the same general location seems to be inviting problems. We can understand why the state was concerned about her being employed in close proximity to inmates working outside of the confines of the county jail.

As stated previously, we assume the situation has been corrected and the ADC can be confident that the 309 program will again be conducted in a beneficial partnership of the state and county.

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