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WYNNE, Ark. (AP) — A sheriff in eastern Arkansas says three inmates have been able to escape from a county jail in less than a month due to low staffing.

Sheriff J.R. Smith told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he fears a lack of staff could result in more escapes or injuries at the Cross County Jail in Wynne.

“We’ve not had anybody hurt yet, knock on wood,” Smith said. “No jailer has been jumped on, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”

The latest incident Sept. 15 involved eight inmates in an exercise yard distracting a jailer, allowing one inmate to get past a fence. He was later captured.

The Arkansas Criminal Detention Facilities Committee inspected the facility in January and released a report that said the facility needs 30 employees to safely staff the jail. The jail currently employs 18 people.

The report said the protection of county property and simple operational goals are at risk because of the current staff level.

“Problems are less likely to happen if our staff numbers are in our favor,” Smith said. “We need to have people watching each other’s back.”

Cross County jailers are paid $19,500 a year.

“That’s not a lot of money,” Smith said. “We can only get 18- or 19-year-old kids with that pay. Some can’t handle it. As long as you pay $19,500, you get what you pay for.”

Perry County Sheriff Scott Montgomery, president of the Arkansas Sheriff’s Association, said jails across the state need more manpower.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,