Washington County sheriff touts ‘tremendous success’ of Fayetteville ACC facility

Similar sites across the state see ‘zero’ issues

By John Rech news@theeveningtimes.com

With the idea about an Arkansas Community Corrections (ACC) licensed treatment facility moving from Pine Bluff to the county hospital building some have wondered what other towns experienced. Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder offered his testimony about the Northwest Treatment Center in Fayetteville at a public meeting Feb. 29 in the Schoettle Center in West Memphis. The treatment center under consideration by the county is for women nonviolent drug related felons with a sentence of four years or less. The northwest center in Fayetteville houses 100 women residents under identical circumstances. The Pine Bluff facility has 350 women in treatment. There are some more similarities with the operation proposed at West Memphis. In Fayetteville the center moved into a vacant government building near the town hall square and a short distance from the University of Arkansas. The plan in West Memphis is to occupy both the Professional Building and the hospital building a block from city hall. Utilities have been left running and a maintenance person has worked to keep the building from a completely moth balled state while suitable tenants have been sought. Helder said his initial reaction about the coming of an ACC facility moving into his old county jail was filled with skepticism but it worked out better than he had hoped. “The detention center sat vacant for two and a half years,” said Helder. “We quickly learned the building was starting to deteriorate as you know they do when they are unoccupied.” “I was skeptical when they first came in, because the first thing they did was make it not look like a jail anymore, ” said Helder. “It disturbed me because I was used to the look. They took down the razor-wire and all the barriers to make it look aesthetically pleasing to the community.” The location in Fayetteville of the treatment center places it at the heart of the community. “It is within blocks of the university,” said Helder. “It is within two blocks of city hall, the square. I have to tell you it is a tremendous success in Fayetteville and Washington County. To anyone passing by it looks like a normal operations building.” Given the treatment center dispensed with fences and the traditional prison house look and attitude, some questions at the meeting aimed at the possibilities of escapees. ACC Deputy Director Kevin Murphy pointed out that the power of the 270 treatment program over the option to sit it out in a state prison was big incentive for residence to stay through completion. “In the history of this program in Arkansas, no one has ever walked away,” said Murphy. Questions came from one man in the audience to recap the information presented about the Northwest ACC. Murphy nodded at each phrase. “Does it have a fence around it; does it have neighborhoods around it; is the campus of the university nearby; are there any problems there?” “Zero,” answered Murphy.

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