Cleburne County sheriff responds to inmate escaping, locals react

Cleburne County sheriff responds to inmate escaping, locals react

HEBER SPRINGS, Ark. – Authorities said an Arkansas inmate taking out the trash just before midnight also took himself out of custody and many people in Cleburne County are now questioning how he could do so in the first place.

Jared West is currently awaiting trial on the charges of first-degree battery, fleeing, tampering and violating a no-contact order. An affidavit for his arrest states he “has been convicted of four or more felonies and should be sentenced as a habitual offender”.

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The US Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force, the 16th Drug Task Force and the Heber Springs Police Department joined the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office in a search that started Thursday night. As of Friday afternoon, it is still ongoing.

“That is big news. We don’t have that hardly happen around here,” Ellen Hobgood said.

Hobgood owns an art studio downtown is not far from the jail. She says someone should have been assigned to watch him, especially considering why he was arrested. Specifically, an affidavit for his arrest claims he shot his girlfriend in the back with a pellet gun cracking a rib and bruising a lung.

“When somebody does physical violence to another human being it’s pretty sad, and if he did that, he may do it again, and it may be even worse,” Hobgood said.

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Friday afternoon Cleburne County Sheriff Chris Brown addressed people’s concerns in a statement.

“We look at a wide array of information before someone is selected for a trustee role.  And in most instances, we start them out with small projects, always supervised, to see whether or not they could potentially work out as a trustee.  Some make that cut, and some don’t.  We don’t typically allow any of the trustees out after dark if they’re unsupervised, but there are occasions that do warrant them to be out.  We’re still looking into all the details surrounding Inmate West leaving, but we are confident we will find him quickly and bring him back to jail.  We are currently working with the US Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force, the 16th Drug Task Force, and Heber Springs PD to try and locate Inmate West.

One of the biggest challenges for jails is balancing this very thing:  We have to try and balance keeping them locked up and away from society to prevent further harm from being done to the public, with the need and desire to help them rehabilitate and return to normal life in society.  The goal of the Criminal Justice system is always to return people back into society as productive members of their communities; sometimes that’s possible, sometimes it’s not.  The trustee program for us has been a way to help some of the inmates start that process of returning to society with the possibility of not reoffending, and for some, that has been a successful endeavor.  Programs like the trustee program and the community service (work release) program are beneficial, not only for those select inmates, but also for the county.  Trustees cook, clean, help do maintenance, and other tasks around the Jail and Sheriff’s Office, as well as picking up trash, and helping with other projects around the county.

We are constantly reviewing and adjusting the trustee program, and its parameters, and will be doing a complete reevaluation of the program as a result of this incident to see where we can improve going forward.

At the end of the day, I am responsible for every employee and every inmate here.  As a result, I bear the responsibility for West escaping, but we have a great team of employees who are working as hard as they can to bring him back to answer for these crimes.”

Cleburne County Sheriff Chris Brown

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Kathy Shelton also works in Downtown Heber Springs and said she trusts the sheriff and his team to bring West in and learn from this.

“They felt comfortable with him, but that won’t be the case anymore,” Shelton said.

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