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Pima County commission: New jail could cost more than $800 million

The Pima County Commission, created to study the need and feasibility of building a new jail, has released its final report, calling for the hiring of a consultant to assess how best to invest taxpayer dollars and for more than $800 million in construction. Recommended new facility options for prices. .

While the report does not provide a definitive answer on whether a new Pima County Adult Detention Center complex should be built, it does offer a number of recommendations. In the conclusion section of the report (269 pages, including appendices), committee members said: “While we agree that something must be done to defuse the current tensions to prevent a crisis, there are My thoughts are different.”

The final list of recommendations in the report, which was nearly a year in the making, begins with a simple observation: “Prison facilities need to be improved.”

But what exactly those improvements are and how they should be funded remains an open question. Instead, the commission will require the county to evaluate the building, define options for restoration, price those options, consider the impacts of those options, and decide how to plan for the building's future. It recommends that companies “proceed with efforts to contract with consultants to provide specialized specialized services.” The prison will achieve its objectives and make recommendations on how to proceed.

Final recommendations will be reflected original charter The purpose of the Adult Detention Blue Ribbon Commission was to “evaluate needs, improvements, and funding options for a new Pima County Adult Detention Center.” The report was delivered to County Governor Jan Lescher on January 31st and released to the media on February 5th.

The committee met six times, but one meeting was called off within minutes after community members protesting the new prison entered with music playing. Information about the public meeting was only published on the committee's website the day before the third meeting.

At least eight people died at the Pima County Jail in 2023, according to the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office. Last year, at least 10 more people died within 30 days of being released from prison. Arizona Luminaria conducted an extensive investigation into the rising number of deaths and dangers in prisons, uncovering consistent complaints about prison conditions, particularly delays in medical care and other deficiencies.

The commission's report included four final options for the county, two of which were determined to be unfeasible. Two viable options are renovating the main part of the prison and building a new 1,132-bed housing unit for him at a price tag of $623 million. Or build an entirely new 3,162-bed prison at a cost of $858 million.

There were 1,697 people in prisons as of February 5, according to Corrections Commissioner Scott Lawing. The total number of beds available in prisons is 2,030.

The complex consists of three residential structures: west and east properties and a central tower. The tower is a former prison facility that opened in 1984.

The report said the most expensive option, building an entirely new prison, would include “finding a suitable property,” “archaeological issues,” and building the prison within sight of Tumamoc Hill, a national historic site. There were risks involved. However, the committee also believed it was “the best option for long-term capital investment returns.”

Both the final and possible recommendations would create more than 1,000 new beds in the prison.

The final report says the number of available beds will become an issue in the near term, and “estimates that the prison population will exceed its design capacity by 2029.”

that resonates Comments from Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos In a letter to the Pima County Board of Supervisors in December 2022, he originally called for construction of a new jail: Do not suggest reductions. ”

The problem will be exacerbated by construction and renovations, as complex building renovations “require the entire building to be closed during construction,” according to the report. These closures would require relocating jail residents during construction, but as the report notes, “the county does not have enough excess jail space to meet this need.”

The report says an option for renovations could be to temporarily house people incarcerated at the jail in nearby county-owned facilities.

The committee recommends four ways for supervisory boards to raise funds. It could be a general sales tax, a major property tax, a prison district excise tax, or a general obligation bond election. The first two could be implemented by county supervisors without public approval, while the latter two would require voter approval.

The report also recommends: The Pima County community has demonstrated many times in the past its ability to carefully consider GO bond proposals submitted to improve county facilities. ”

“The amount of public input received is indicative of the community's desire and expectation to address this issue,” the report said.

not so dangerous

Although the final report acknowledges that prison conditions are poor, committee members do not believe prison conditions are at crisis level, as Nanos argued in his paper. Letter of December 5, 2022 The prison is in a “full-blown crisis”.

“Insufficient evidence was presented to characterize the current situation as a 'crisis' as described by Sheriff Nanos,” committee members wrote in their report.

An Arizona Luminaria reporter toured the prison in January and found what Nanos and others described as poor design, including leaky pipes, dripping ceilings, dirty walls, and even a medical unit with cells that were difficult to see. I saw parts of the infrastructure, including facilities, that were crumbling. security guard or nurse station.

The detox unit (where all people incarcerated in the prison spend at least the first few days unless they have another medical or mental health condition) consists of cells that housed 10 people at the time of the tour. They were lined up on mattresses in the prison. floor. A television was playing quietly in the corner of the room, a few men watching, others sprawled out under blankets. According to prison officials, many of them suffer from withdrawal in these conditions. Prison officials also commented that the odor inside the detox unit (an almost noxious smell of chemical detergents) was better than usual.

Chief Rowing said the prison is not designed for people who are in mental health crisis or who have a high percentage of people struggling with the effects of fentanyl and other drug use disorders.

“If we don't do it now, we're going to be sued,” Rowing said of the need for a new facility. “If we don't build now, the costs will only go up.”

Plaintiffs have filed at least 40 federal and state lawsuits involving the prison since 2021, according to court records reviewed by Arizona Luminaria, citing medical and health conditions ignored due to mail access issues. Alleging various forms of abuse, including Most of the lawsuits were dismissed on technical grounds.

At least five of the ongoing lawsuits focus on deaths of people in prison. Decisions in either case could open up new perspectives on prison policy.

The committee's report also noted that “repair and maintenance expenditures have increased” under Nanos.

Before the Nanos administration, spending averaged $500,000 a year. Under Nanos, the department spent $957,000 in fiscal year 2021 and about $3.07 million in fiscal year 2022, according to the report.

Although the committee did not seem convinced that an entirely new prison was needed, it also did not believe that renovations would be sufficient. Most of the building's problems “cannot be fixed with simple renovations,” they wrote.

They also said, “The design of health care, mental health and detoxification units is outdated. They need to be expanded and reimagined.”

Ultimately, the committee concluded that “some new construction will be required to support the growing population and/or movement of inmates to allow for the rehabilitation of current facilities.” I attached it.

The commission acknowledged in its brief that its “scope is limited to an assessment of the conditions in prisons themselves,” but that it was “immediately It was revealed. He said problems seen in prisons needed to be “addressed in a more global way through future whole-of-community initiatives”.

The committee has not specified what the community-wide effort should look like. But local stakeholders have vocally criticized the construction of the new prison at public meetings, protests and rallies over the past year.

“The committee strongly supports a more comprehensive discussion that involves the larger justice system and its stakeholders at a later stage as the county continues to assess the PCADC and its needs.”

When the commission quickly canceled its meeting in August, Stephanie Madero-Piña, a member of the No Prison Death Movement whose husband and nephew died in prison, said: Will you turn your back on us? Are you okay. We'll speak for you, asshole. ”

The Pima County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss the Blue Ribbon Commission's final report at its Feb. 20 regular meeting.

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