HEMPSTEAD COUNTY, AR (KSLA) - The state of Arkansas is giving its support to Hempstead County in an effort improve the way juvenile offenders are handled.
Governor Asa Hutchinson visited Hope, AR, Monday afternoon to transfer the deed of the Hope Arkansas Migrant Center to Hempstead County with the goal of turning it into a juvenile rehabilitation center.
"You know it is doing the right thing. It is the effective utilization of state resources. There is a great need for community-based juvenile services," said Gov. Hutchinson.
The 72-room migrant center closed in 2013 and sits on a 9-acre plot.
"If the county can utilize this property and have a plan for it, then we worked with them to transfer this property. There is a great need for community base juvenile services so they do not have to travel hundreds of miles away closer to their community," said Gov. Hutchinson.
The Hempstead County Jail can hold about 100 inmates and like most Arkansas counties, there is no room for juvenile offenders.
"We have to transport them to Batesville, AR, and that is about a 5-hour trip any way you go," said Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton.
Hempstead County officials say the county spends close to $100,000 a year transporting juveniles to a certified facility.
They say the constant transportation has an adverse effect on both law enforcement and the courts.
"If we can keep them here, they know what we really care and maybe we can turn it around because that is our goal," said prosecuting attorney Kristi McQueen.
"If we can keep our juveniles from becoming better criminals and teach them and give them the education they need right here, then I think Hempstead County and the state of Arkansas will be a better place," said Sheriff James Singleton.
Leaders say they hope to have necessary funding within the next three years.