The future of the Lawrence County Jail is still uncertain as a Jail Committee, Quorum Court Members, Judge Freeman and Sheriff Yates work toward a solution. In August 2014, the Arkansas Jail Standards Committee voted 5-0 in favor of closing the current facility due to violations within the jail, since then Judge Dale Freeman, former Sheriff Jody Dotson, Interim Sheriff Tony Waldrupe and current Sheriff Jeff Yates have not only worked to repair violations with the State Fire Marshall Rules but also move forward to construct a new facility.

In a September meeting with the Arkansas Jail Standards a decision was made to allow the current facility to stay open temporarily until the county could move forward with it’s new facility. A 6 month probation period was granted by the Arkansas Jail Standards Committee. Judge Freeman then appointed a committee to explore building site locations and discuss building designs with different architecture firms.

In the beginning two sites were proposed, vacant property owned in Walnut Ridge by the county and the former Black Rock School. Different county leaders visited the sites and in several meeting voiced their opinions. In a meeting last week, the jail committee was asked to consider a third choice, the former Higginbotham property located next to the courthouse.

A meeting was set for February 23rd to present findings and move forward with choosing designers, etc. That meeting has since been cancelled by Committee Chairman Lloyd Clark citing the committee needs more time to make the necessary choices. Justices have at times been divided on the location of the future jail but the general consensus of the County Judge and Quorum Court members is that the county needs a new jail.

There are basically three steps to this process, county leaders need to agree on a location, agree on a design that will be accepted by the Arkansas Jail Standards and pass a sales tax to fund the facility. Leaders have yet to clear step one in the three step process with the original 6 month grace period about to expire. After speaking with several voters that have attended meetings about the jail, most agreed that the hardest step may be the passing of a sales tax in Lawrence County to pay for the new facility. Although final figures have not been released, estimates for a new facility could be in the area of 10 to 12 million dollars.