I can safely conclude that most Americans do not perceive a jail as a place of luxury or the preferred choice for their overnight stay.
I would completely agree with them. Unfortunately, some find themselves on the wrong side of the law, resulting in a stay at a county jail located somewhere throughout our 3,000-plus counties under the direct care and supervision of a county sheriff. In Arizona, the 15 sheriffs have a state constitutional mandate to operate a county jail.
Seems quite simple on paper, but as any sheriff will tell you, it’s a very complex task.
The men and women who work within our detention facilities under the institutional leadership of Commander Kenny Bradshaw, (a 33-year veteran of the prison/jail systems), work tirelessly to maintain order, provide safeguards to our inmates, and promote a respect-based culture with built-in consequences for those failing to follow the rules.
I am so impressed with these officers’ dedication to detail and passion to show a balanced application of sensitivity and command presence for everyone’s safety. They truly are the backbone of our jail’s success.
A recent survey revealed that 67 percent of all inmates have been and/or are currently diagnosed with a mental disorder.
The remaining 33 percent are emotionally unbalanced due to their incarceration. Let’s not forget those violent offenders who show no respect to others or the norms of society and spend their time calculating how to harm others or escape. We can reasonably conclude that jails in most counties are the largest behavioral centers operating.
Over the last decade, approximately 40,000 individuals were incarcerated in Cochise County jails — a staggering number that most don’t hear about or realize.
During this time, 99 inmates have attempted suicide. While professionally trained staff within these jails have saved the lives of 96, sadly, three were successful in taking their own lives. No one, to include a sheriff, wants to read about an inmate committing suicide while incarcerated. Unfortunately, it’s more common than not.
The rate of suicide within your county jail is less than 1 percent over the last decade.
Our main facility can house just over 300 inmates. One of the many challenges we address is the age of the facility. The jail is over three decades old, and aging at a fast pace.
Modern jail (industry) standards are lacking, solely based on the design of the facility. A second challenge is the recruitment and retention of our detention officers. The annual starting salary is $32,000, and finding that quality candidate to work within a jail environment is not easy. Combine that with the lack of staffing and our unsuccessful attempts to increase staffing, and one can see why I worry for the safety of my officers and inmates.
My senior leadership and I will continue to work toward these resolutions to bring educational awareness and promote modern upgrades to an aging facility.
My commitment to you, the citizens of Cochise County, remains steadfast. My team and I will continue to be vigilant in all we do and work toward the betterment of our county jails in a way that is efficient and effective, and that focuses on our mission statement of quality of service and public safety for those we serve.
Thank you for your continued support.
Mark Dannels is sheriff of Cochise County.