County Inmates Could Be Set Free as Vaccine Mandate May Gut Corrections Force
An Arizona county might let inmates out of jail due to the possible layoffs of unvaccinated corrections officers.
In November, Pima County’s board of supervisors voted to require all county workers to be vaccinated by the end of the year, according to KPVI-TV. Unvaccinated corrections officers could be fired.
In a memo to officials, acting Pima County administrator Jan Lesher said one county jail is facing the consequences of the vaccine mandate.
“Currently we have a substantial number of correctional officers who work in the Pima County Adult Detention Center, and are therefore subject to this vaccine requirement, who are not fully vaccinated,” Lesher wrote.
“Should this be the case on January 1, there may be fewer corrections officer[s], which may result in the need to reduce the PCADC population.”
Lesher is calling for a task force to determine how “the jail population might be reduced safely.” She said this should be the first step toward locking up fewer people.
“I am hopeful that once we are past the immediate efforts to reduce the jail population in connection with the vaccine mandate, we will continue to work to reduce unnecessary use of incarceration in Pima County,” she wrote.
“We have a situation where corrections officers are unable to control the inmate population currently and now we’re going to terminate a whole bunch of them,” county supervisor Steve Christy said, according to KGUN-TV.
“It makes no sense. Let’s open up the jails if we don’t have enough staffing? That’ll cure the problem,” he quipped.
Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos said his department faces a serious loss of manpower, according to KOLD-TV.
“About 158 of the 371 have not been vaccinated,” he said. “If I lost 158 officers today, would it hurt? Sure it would. Would it make things tough and give us some challenges to overcome? Absolutely. Could we do it? Yes.”
Thomas Frazier, a corrections sergeant, said “we cannot effectively run the facility at the low staffing levels we are,” and that trying to do so with 150 fewer officers would be “dangerous.”
“I think it would be very scary and it would be a disservice to the citizens of Pima County to let people out of jail in such numbers that would be necessary to allow that facility to run on half of or less than half of the current workforce,” he said.
Nanos said he will consider multiple options.
“Do I have 70 inmates for one corrections officer or do I have 140 inmates for one corrections officer?” he said. “Do I go to 12-hour shifts versus eight hours, do I pay more overtime, do I bring deputies in to work the jail? There’s a number of options.”
Republican state Sen. Kelly Townsend said she wants the state attorney general’s office to investigate, according to KPVI.
“I am asking the Office of the Attorney General to investigate the decision by Pima County Supervisors to fire unvaccinated correctional officers, or any staff for that matter, without honoring their right to a religious exemption,” Townsend said.
“This is a new level of tyranny that we have not seen in this state. I will not stand for this, and neither will my colleagues. We stand ready to push back and restore sanity to Arizona.”
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