In Arkansas, there aren't enough prison beds for all the inmates. Tasked with housing 14,753 people, the state's prisons have fallen around 280 beds short, with 1,400 state inmates being held in county jails as of Monday. Arkansas's state prison director told the corrections board that there are 300 beds ready for use, but it would cost $8 million to hire new employees and run the new facilities.
Arkansas isn't the only state with a bed problem: Arizona has been relying on temporary beds to make up for only having 37,000 beds for 41,000 inmates.
When U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke to the American Bar Association about the economic and moral costs of the U.S. criminal justice system last week, he was mainly talking about federal prisons. But prisons at the state and local level aren't in any better shape. While the overall state prison population declined in 2012 by just over 2 percent, there were still more than 1.3 million inmates in the system. That's greater than the population of Maine--or about Washington, D.C., and Alaska combined. In other words, if the state prison population were its own state, it would be the 41st-most populated one in the nation.
If you need more proof of how bleak things are, just look at some of what's happened in the last few weeks.