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County officials reviewing rehab program lease agreement for

County officials reviewing rehab program lease agreement for


By Mark Randall

The county attorney is reviewing a proposed lease agreement that could land a new tenant to occupy the former Crittenden Regional Hospital building.

And contrary to rumor, it is not a prison.

County Judge Woody Wheeless told the Quorum Court this week that he has a potential entity that would like to use the hospital to house low risk drug offenders who are in a transitional substance abuse rehabilitation program.

If the deal goes through, the county would be off the hook for paying the utility bills and could even net the county 130 new jobs.

“Word has spread on Facebook that the county is negotiating with an entity about possibly turning the old hospital into a prison. That is not accurate at all,” Wheeless said. “We were contacted by an entity who wants to take over our facility and use it as a drug rehab for females. These are females who have been arrested for maybe breaking into a home looking for money or stolen from a relative for drug money and sent to prison over drugs, but prison really isn’t the proper place for them.”

Wheeless said the facility would house about 350 females and would employ about 120 to 150 people.

“So from that perspective, it is a good thing,” Wheeless said.

Wheeless said prison overcrowding has been a big issue in the state.

The state is looking to ease that burden by housing nonviolent offenders — especially drug offenders — in other facilities to free up jail space.

“The way they are proposing this idea is that you have a segment of the population arrested for substance abuse or something and they are being put in prison and occupying space where there may be alternatives out there to help the individual and free up some space,” Wheeless said.

The entity runs a similar facility

County officials reviewing rehab program

lease agreement for

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