Sheriff Woods talks about the lawsuit: Explains how it will take care of previous obligations


Legal action by Jefferson County against the city of Pine Bluff that began over a squabble over fees to house city prisoners in the county jail was settled this week with Jefferson County being awarded over $400,000 to cover the costs the city incurred between January 2021 and March of this year.

On Friday, Jefferson County Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr., who initiated the lawsuit after a settlement between the parties broke down, said that it costs about $4 million annually to operate the jail and a quarter-cent sales tax for jail operations brings in only about $1.7 million.

He said after budget cuts in 2019, he had to look for additional revenue streams.

In addition to receiving a check that will take care of the previous obligations, Pine Bluff was ordered to pay future invoices when they are received.

In 2019, an average of 34 jail beds were used each day for people arrested in Pine Bluff and Woods said after the pandemic began, that number decreased significantly as restrictions were put in place. With those mostly removed, he said there may be a slight increase in the number of beds used by Pine Bluff.

Woods appeared on the Oldies 101.3 morning show and host Greg Horne asked if he thought that because the city now has to pay for jail beds, is it possible they would reduce the number of people being taken to jail.

In a memo to Mayor Shirley Washington, members of the City Council and others, City Attorney Althea Hadden Scott said the court told the city to work with the county on a payment arrangement for the past due money and since the 2023 budget has already been adopted, Washington and Finance Director Yaminah Roberts are working together to come up with a plan which will be presented to the Ways and Means Committee and then the full council.