Addressing Cochise County Jail Challenges – Jail District Information
Commander Bradshaw, Jail Commander for the Cochise County Sheriff's Office, was on First Watch to talk about the Jail District.
Commander Bradshaw: I just want to start off with some of the reasons that we think that we need a new modern facility here in Cochise County. There's two reasons two main reasons; the first one is the infrastructure. The jail itself is 40 years old, and it's falling apart. We have power that is not working. Last summer, we actually ran the facility off of an extension cord for five weeks. We had a power outage for two days. APS came in, couldn't figure out exactly what was wrong, and we ended up running a cable from our main electric input all the way down to Hwy. 80 to an electrical substation just to power the facility. We also have such hard water in Bisbee, and Bisbee is notorious for having hard mineralized water, and it's just very abusive on the pipes and all the equipment in the jail. So we spent, well, most recently, we spent $140,000 on new water heaters and a water softener to try and alleviate that, but whoever built the jail, and I'm not trying to knock anybody out there but or designed it, they put the boiler room and the electrical room right next to each other. So when we have all these leaks and drips and floods and everything else, water runs right into the electric, and if you go online and look at some of the slides and pictures that we have on our website, you can see that the electrical conduit is actually corroded and we believe there's actually water in those lines that are causing some of these electrical issues.
The last part of the infrastructure problems that I want to talk about are; in 1985, when the facility was built, we didn't have IP cameras, we didn't have IP phones, we didn't have computers, we didn't have CAT5 cable. So everything is what I like to say aftermarket. So if you walk down the main hallway in the jail, it looks like the inside of a submarine. There's conduit cable, everything running in there, and it lends itself to tampering, and it's just not a good situation for a detention facility.
The other thing I want to talk about this morning is the change of population in the jail. Forty years ago, we had maybe 10-15 females at any one time that were incarcerated, and now it's it runs in the fifties, sixties, and our population for the main jail is 302. We have three jails in the county. We have 19 beds here in Sierra Vista. We have 16 beds in Wilcox, and then we have 302 beds in Bisbee. In 1985 when the jail in Bisbee was built, it was built for only 168 beds. In the late '90s, it was double-bunked to 302. So, that 168 was designed for just a very small population, and now it's out of control. Last September, the state of Arizona passed a new anti-smuggling law so that the local agencies could start to attack human trafficking. The first three months, our population skyrocketed to 335-345, and remember, our Max beds was 302.
So what happens is classification starts to break down when we're at about 260, and what classification is is when you're when you come into the jail you're classified as a minimum, a medium maximum obviously females and juveniles and that's to protect all those different classifications from each other, and that depends on your criminal history your propensity for violence, and there's a myriad of things that go into that classification process. So let's talk about those juveniles for a minute. Here about five years ago, we noticed the big trend of the cartels using all these juveniles to smuggle drugs across the border. The problem was the federal government doesn't have any kind of process to prosecute those juveniles, so our sheriff and our County Attorney got together and said there has to be some kind of consequence for this action. So we started charging them locally and charging them as adults, and incarcerating them in the main jail. At one time, we got up to a population of 36. Well, one of the problems with juveniles is that even though they're charged as adults, you still have to go by all the juvenile rules, so they have we have to abide by the school lunch program. They have to have one hour of large muscle mass activity every day, they have to have GED education, high school, and the biggest thing is they have to be totally sight and sound separated from any other adult inmate in the jail. So every time we want to move them to go to a lawyer visit, visitation, recreation, court, anything like that, the entire facility has to be locked down to move. Well, I think that that worked really well when the Sheriff and County Attorney decided to do that because then they stopped using them.
Well, that brings us to today, where now the cartels are using these juveniles and recruiting them out of the valley area up in Phoenix to come down and smuggle, and they're telling them if you run from the cops, you won't be chased. Well, that's not necessarily true. So we have, this morning, we had seven juveniles that are charged as adults in the facility, and that ranges anywhere from the crimes of felony flight to actual homicide, where we had a 14-year-old that was doing 100 miles an hour and crashed into another vehicle and killed a lady. So those are the kind of populations that are changing.
The biggest population that has changed in the last 40 years are those with mental health illnesses. So in Cochise County in rural Arizona, there are no established mental health facilities. Most places in urban areas have what they call a crisis center. So in a crisis center, there's two sides; I like to call it beds and chairs. So when the chair side somebody comes in, they're out in front of Circle K cussing out everybody that comes in and out; law enforcement has a choice in those urban areas. They can take them to that place, and maybe they just need to watch a couple of hours of Gilligan's Island and have a peanut butter Jelly sandwich, and they can go back out and be a great contributing member of society. Well, some of those people maybe need to go to the bedside for 72 hours; get back on a medication regimen, see a physician, and then they can go out and not have a problem. But the problem that we have in rural Arizona is, if a law enforcement officer is called for their third, fourth, fifth time to that Circle K, 7-11, whatever it happens to be, and because some guys out front cussing everybody out raising a bunch of garbage and just being a fool because he's so mentally ill, we don't have that choice. So the law enforcement officer ends up taking them and charging them with trespassing, disturbing the peace, whatever the case may be, and putting them in jail. Our problem is that some of these folks are so mentally ill that we can't put them in general population because we put them in general population, they're either preyed upon by the general population, or they're so ill or out of control that they could injure the rest of the population. So we have to isolate them. Well, you or I isolated for any amount of time would start to lose it a little bit, and these folks are already there, so we're not doing them any good. So mental health in this county, and especially once it gets into the criminal justice system, has become such a big issue, and with a new modern facility, we can address that. Sheriff and I, command staff, members of the community, we've gone around and try and get a crisis center established here, but if we can build a new facility with a crisis center established in that facility and proper mental health treatment, that's that would be a great solution. We brought in members experts to look at the jail from the National Institute for jail operations (NIJO) and different organizations just to see if we could fix it, but there's such a security issue, such bad design, everything else, the ultimate decision because you guys need a new facility.
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