Like many prisons, the prisons in Arkansas are facing a number of challenges. Some of these are deep-rooted and others stem from the Covid-19 epidemic. Let’s take a look at the main challenges in place – and how you can help if you’ve got a friend or family member in prison in Arkansas.
Prisons are Full at the State Level – Leading to a Backlog in County Jails
Many jails are becoming overcrowded, such as in Boone County and Baxter County, because prisons are so full. This is leading to a backlog of inmates, with Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery commenting that the huge uptick in jail and prison overcrowding is likely down to “drugs or drug-related crimes.”
This backlog means that prisoners may be being held in crowded or uncomfortable conditions, such as on temporary beds. It’s also causing issues for the appropriate separation of prisoners in jails based on the type of offense they’ve committed.
Coronavirus is Causing Health and Safety Issues in Prisons
Last September, Arkansas had high levels of Covid-19 cases in inmates, coming sixth in the country for the number of virus-related cases in state prisons. With social distancing and surface sanitizing being tricky in prisons, Covid-19 has sadly taken a number of lives of inmates nationwide.
Prisons have had to suspend in-person visiting to a large degree, with video visitation taking place instead. Many prisoners (and their family and friends) feel this isn’t the same as being able to have in-person visitation.
How You Can Help a Loved One in Prison in Arkansas
Perhaps you want to offer emotional or practical support to a friend or family member who’s incarcerated in Arkansas. Here are some practical things you can do.
Contacting a Friend or Family Member in Prison in Arkansas
If you’re not sure where your loved one is currently being held, you can run an ADC inmate search to find out where in Arkansas they’ve been incarcerated. This search will let you find their inmate number, which you’ll need in order to contact them – particularly if you want to send money.
You can write to an inmate at any jail or prison, though do check the institution’s guidelines on what can and can’t be sent. In general, assume that you should keep paper and envelopes plain, rather than using things like glitter, stickers, or perfume. You may need to keep photos to 4” x 6” or smaller.
Taking Phone Calls
Normally, you won’t be able to phone and talk to your friend or family member in prison – but they can phone out to talk to you. If possible, be prepared to pay the call charges, or put money into their prison account to help with the cost of calls. Phone calls from prison can be expensive.
All prisoners have an account where you can deposit money. This can be used to buy items from the commissary (prison shop), such as toiletries, clothes, and snacks … or even immune-boosting vitamins. Being able to buy these sorts of things can make a huge difference to people in prison, as only the basic necessities will be provided by the prison.
While it may not be possible for you to visit in person, either due to Covid regulations or due to distance, even visiting virtually can be a huge boost to the person in prison. Make the time to visit if you can (just make sure your loved one adds to you to their list of approved visitors, so you’ll be allowed to visit).
Anything you can do for a family member or friend in prison will help make their stay more bearable, even with restrictions or discomforts due to overcrowding and the Covid-19 pandemic. Simply writing a letter once every few months could really improve their day.