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Saturday, November 28, 2020

FAQs

What is the County building on Prescott Lakes Parkway?

Yavapai County is constructing the long-planned Yavapai County Criminal Justice Center at Prescott Lakes Parkway about ½ mile east of Highway 89. The Prescott Lakes property was specifically identified in 2003 as the site for a future criminal justice center by the Board of Supervisors.

What facilities are being constructed at the Justice Center?

The Yavapai County Criminal Justice Center will include a 152-bed booking and holding facility that will be securely connected with two Superior courtrooms, an inpatient behavioral health evaluation center, and the “Connections Center” community services connection facility. The innovative Connections Center is designed to connect those charged with crimes or suffering from mental health issues with community services that sustain their ability to live in the community.

Isn’t the “Criminal Justice Center” just a jail?

No, it is much more than just a place for detention. The Yavapai County Criminal Justice Center is designed to implement the Yavapai model of criminal justice reforms. The Criminal Justice Center features the unique “Connections Center,” connecting those released from jail and from inpatient mental health evaluations with housing, employment, medical help, counseling, and transportation. Many studies on incarceration and jail recidivism conducted nationwide have found that providing these services significantly decrease the likelihood that the released individual return to jail or mental health hospitalization.

The Yavapai County Criminal Justice Center also houses an on-site behavioral health evaluation facility. By law, the County must provide mental health evaluation services (commonly known as “Title 36” evaluations). Placing the Title 36 evaluation facility adjacent to the Connections Center allows individuals leaving the Title 36 process to access services through the Connections Center, supporting their successful return to the community.

Finally, the Criminal Justice Center features a booking and holding facility directly connected to two fully equipped courtrooms of the Superior Court. This allows the Sheriff to quickly and securely move individuals from the holding facility for court appearances.

Is the Criminal Justice Center really necessary?

Yes! In 2015 the County commissioned a study of its jail system. Chinn Planning, a nationally recognized jail system consultant firm, conducted the study and issued a report in 2016. The Chinn Report, available HERE, recommends construction of the Criminal Justice Center in the Prescott area. The Board, after considering the Chinn report, decided to move forward with the Criminal Justice Center for the following reasons:

To keep Prescott area cities and towns safe. The jail is in Camp Verde. It is up to the arresting agency to transport an arrestee to Camp Verde when an arrest is made in western Yavapai County. Western Yavapai County includes Prescott, Prescott Valley, Dewey-Humboldt, Chino Valley and the unincorporated areas surrounding these municipalities. The police departments for Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Chino Valley, and the Sheriff’s deputies protecting unincorporated regions in western Yavapai County lose 20% to 50% of their on-duty law enforcement protection for up to 4 hours while the arresting officer transports the arrestee to Camp Verde.

To keep downtown Prescott safe. Criminal court proceedings occur every business day in downtown Prescott, and every business day dozens of inmates take the long ride from Camp Verde to downtown Prescott. Once in Prescott the inmates are marched, shackled and chained together, openly through the public park at the center of Prescott (Courthouse Plaza, the “crown jewel” of Yavapai County) to go to court. Chinn Planning expressed serious concern at this practice, noting how obviously unsafe it is to have large numbers of inmates outside the confines of a secure structure. Prescott’s downtown courthouse originally housed the jail as well the court because inmates could be taken easily, quickly, and safely from jail to court without leaving the building. The new Yavapai County Criminal Justice Center is designed to reestablish the commonsense design of jails and courts in the same building, freeing Prescott’s Courthouse Plaza from the clatter of shackles and chains.

To save money now. Yavapai County spends $2 million each year in fuel, equipment, and extra manpower transporting thousands of inmates to-and-from Camp Verde. The Yavapai County Criminal Justice Center in Prescott will save taxpayers this wasted money.

To save money in the long term. The Camp Verde jail is overcrowded. Yavapai County has faced jail overcrowding issues before. In 1997, a US Department of Justice investigation of Yavapai County found that the Gurley St. jail was severely overcrowded, resulting in several constitutional violations of inmate rights. The federal government threatened to take over Yavapai County jails, build new ones, and force Yavapai County to pay the bill. Overcrowding in the Camp Verde jail, if not addressed now, could easily lead to another Department of Justice investigation. Addressing our overcrowded Camp Verde jail now saves us money in the long run.

Isn’t the Camp Verde jail just full of people arrested for simple marijuana possession?

No. Over 90% of the people in the Camp Verde jail are arrested for dangerous or significant felonies. Those charged only with simple marijuana possession are rarely booked, and when they are, are almost always released within 24 hours.

Why not expand the Camp Verde Jail?

Most of Yavapai County’s population is in the Prescott area. About 67% (2/3) of Yavapai County resides in western Yavapai County - Prescott, Prescott Valley, Dewey-Humboldt, Chino Valley, or the surrounding unincorporated area. Consequently, about 67% of the crime and arrests occur in western Yavapai County. Expanding the Camp Verde jail will not solve the safety and cost issues associated with having the County’s only jail so far from its major population center. Yavapai County’s new Criminal Justice Center in the Prescott area will:

Keep Prescott area cities and towns safe. The jail is in Camp Verde. It is up to the arresting agency to transport an arrestee to Camp Verde when an arrest is made in western Yavapai County. Western Yavapai County includes Prescott, Prescott Valley, Dewey-Humboldt, Chino Valley and the unincorporated areas surrounding these municipalities. The police departments for Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Chino Valley, and the Sheriff’s deputies protecting unincorporated regions in western Yavapai County lose 20% to 50% of their on-duty law enforcement protection for up to 4 hours while the arresting officer transports the arrestee to Camp Verde.

Keep downtown Prescott safe. Criminal court proceedings occur every business day in downtown Prescott, and every business day dozens of inmates take the long ride from Camp Verde to downtown Prescott. Once in Prescott the inmates are marched, shackled and chained together, openly through the public park at the center of Prescott (Courthouse Plaza, the “crown jewel” of Yavapai County) to go to court. Chinn Planning expressed serious concern at this practice, noting how obviously unsafe it is to have large numbers of inmates outside the confines of a secure structure. Prescott’s downtown courthouse originally housed the jail as well the court because inmates could be taken easily, quickly, and safely from jail to court without leaving the building. The new Yavapai County Criminal Justice Center is designed to reestablish the commonsense design of jails and courts in the same building, freeing Prescott’s Courthouse Plaza from the clatter of shackles and chains.

Save money now. Yavapai County spends $2 million each year in fuel, equipment, and extra manpower transporting thousands of inmates to-and-from Camp Verde. The Yavapai County Criminal Justice Center in Prescott will save taxpayers this wasted money.

Save money in the long term. The Camp Verde jail is overcrowded. Yavapai County has faced jail overcrowding issues before. In 1997, a US Department of Justice investigation of Yavapai County found that the Gurley St. jail was severely overcrowded, resulting in several constitutional violations of inmate rights. The federal government threatened to take over Yavapai County jails, build new ones, and force Yavapai County to pay the bill. Overcrowding in the Camp Verde jail, if not addressed now, could easily lead to another Department of Justice investigation. Addressing our overcrowded Camp Verde jail now saves us money in the long run.

Will the Justice Center include services to get inmates mental health help?

Yes! In 2017 the Sheriff strengthened the dedicated Behavioral Health Unit inside the Camp Verde jail. The Behavioral Health Unit attempts to screen every person booked into the jail for behavioral health, substance abuse, veteran’s status, employment, and their access to housing and transportation. Proper medical and behavioral health treatment is provided while the person is incarcerated, and, in conjunction with the Reach Out program, coordinated assistance with behavioral health providers is facilitated upon the release of arrestees. This program will continue to operate in the Criminal Justice Center.

Why is the County building a jail in the middle of Prescott?

Actually, the County is building the Criminal Justice Center as part of a plan to move booking and holding activities out of the middle of Prescott. The current County booking and holding facility is on Gurley Street in downtown Prescott, a one-minute walk from Courthouse Plaza. While within the Prescott city limits, the Criminal Justice Center is in an area used for industry and heavy commercial uses. The Criminal Justice Center site is next door to an old landfill and a wastewater treatment plant, across the street from a garbage transfer station and an animal shelter, and within ¼ mile of several heavy-use commercial enterprises. The nearest residence is over ½ mile away. And, while isolated within the industrial/commercial area, the Criminal Justice Center is centrally located and short distance from Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Chino Valley, the major population centers in this area. This central location is important because it reduces each city’s transportation costs and ensures that police officers from Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley can quickly return to their community after transporting an arrested individual to the Criminal Justice Center.

Why not build the Criminal Justice Center in away from Prescott where no one lives?

The purpose of the Criminal Justice Center is to serve western Yavapai County, particularly the heavy population centers of Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Chino Valley. Building the Criminal Justice Center far away from Prescott, Prescott Valley or Chino Valley will not solve the serious safety issues or the costly transportation problem the County faces right now. The Criminal Justice Center must be centrally located within western Yavapai County to solve those safety and transportation issues.

What has the Sheriff done to keep the jail population down?

Since taking office in 2011, Sheriff Mascher has been recognized as a leader in implementing innovative programs designed to get people out of jail and keep them out. These include:

  • Developing and implementing pre-arrest mental health diversion strategies for all Yavapai County law enforcement, including Mobile Crisis Response Teams, and working with local mental health providers to create the mental health Crisis Stabilization facility to keep the mentally ill out of the jail;
  • Participation in the federal 287g program to promptly identify and transfer illegal immigrants to Federal custody;
  • Creating a dedicated Behavioral Health Unit inside the jail to facilitate the release of arrestees with mental health issues to treatment facilities and reduce recidivism;
  • Implementing the Coordinated Release Program linking inmates upon release with mental health treatment providers, medical treatment providers, employment assistance, transportation assistance and other appropriate community assistance (“Reach Out”).

Besides the Sheriff, what are other county officials doing to keep the jail population down?

Yavapai County’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council features members of all Yavapai County’s criminal justice community including the Courts, County Attorney, Sheriff, Probation, and Public Defender. Together and in teams, the members of the Council have implemented innovations to reduce both jail population and recidivism, including:

  • Innovative prosecution and sentencing programs to reduce recidivism;
  • Implementation of Veteran’s Courts to facilitate the release of veteran arrestees and reduce recidivism;
  • Pre-trial release and diversion programs to expedite the release of inmates where release would not threaten the community;
  • Implementation of Mental Health Court to facilitate the treatment of arrestees with mental health needs and reduce recidivism;
  • New probation revocation guidelines that reduce or eliminate jail time for minor probation violations.

Haven’t the voters twice rejected building a new jail?

No. While voters have twice rejected raising the jail district sales tax by ¼ cent (once in 2008, and once in 2014), the question of whether to build a criminal justice facility in Prescott has never been placed before the voters.

Will the Criminal Justice Center draw criminals and their families to Prescott?

Highly unlikely. The Criminal Justice Center is designed to be a booking and holding facility. It will be a place for Prescott area law enforcement to book, most of whom reside in the Prescott area. Arrestees are held pending their constitutionally mandated court hearings, most of which take place within a few hours. Inmates that are to be held in jail longer than 10 days will be transported to Camp Verde for longer term incarceration. Since inmates will not be held in the Criminal Justice facility for more than a few days, there is no reason for families that are not already in Prescott to move here to see the inmate. Further, swift justice tends to make criminals move away from an area, not to the area.

What is the estimated average length of stay for the new Prescott criminal justice facility?

Ten days or less.

Won’t the criminal justice facility have a negative effect on nearby property values?

Highly unlikely. The area surrounding the Criminal Justice Center site already contains uses that are considered “undesirable.” The Criminal Justice Center is surrounded on two sides by a closed landfill, and a third side holds a wastewater treatment plant. Across the street from the Criminal Justice Center is a garbage transfer station and the local animal shelter. The County’s juvenile detention center is next door. The Criminal Justice Center site is surrounded by large steep hills, screening it from nearby properties, and the nearest residential property is over 1/2 mile from the site.

Won’t building the Criminal Justice Center make my taxes go up?

Throughout the state, Yavapai County is known for providing quality service and low taxes. Tax increases in Yavapai County have been few and have been implemented only when necessary. In 2019 the Board of Supervisors addressed two important public safety issues: The Criminal Justice Center, and the County’s responsibility to fund the pensions of the Sheriff’s deputies that keep our citizens safe. The Board of Supervisors voted to increase the primary property tax in the county by $30 per $100,000. The money is divided almost equally between the Criminal Justice Center and the County’s Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS) unfunded liability.

Is there another way to pay for the Criminal Justice Center besides a property tax increase?

Yes. The voters of Yavapai County may increase the jail district sales tax by up to ¼ cent. Voters have twice rejected raising the jail district sales tax, once in 2008, and once in 2014. The option to increase the jail district sales tax is still available but requires voter approval.

How was the Criminal Justice Center project financed?

The County engaged the underwriting firm of Stifel, Nicolaus & Company to assist with obtaining financing for the Criminal Justice Center project. With Stifel’s assistance, the County was able to issue tax-free municipal bonds at an interest rate of 2.84% to finance the project.

How were the architects and builder chosen?

Arizona law gives the County three major options to select architects and builders – an option that emphasizes price, one that emphasizes speed, and one that emphasizes value. Because the goal was to construct a criminal justice center that was of good quality, highly functional and long-lasting, the Board chose the method that insured that the architects and construction professionals selected would deliver the best value for the money. This method, called “Construction Manager at Risk” or “CMAR” emphasizes the proven skill and experience of the professionals chosen rather than just the price of the project. Of course, the ability of the professionals applying for selection to deliver projects on time and within budget is a major selection criterion. After soliciting and reviewing proposals from architects and contractors, the County selected DLR Group for architectural services, and Hensel Phelps Construction for construction management services. After selection of DLR and Hensel Phelps, the County negotiated with both firms for a guaranteed maximum price for the project that is within the County’s budget. Under this selection process, Hensel Phelps assumes the risk if the cost of the project as designed exceeds the negotiated price. The laws governing selection methods can be found in Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 34, Chapter 6, Article 1.

Were any environmental studies conducted on the project site?

Yes. The County hired consultants to conduct an Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) on the Criminal Justice Center site. The ESA included the customary commercial assessment of the site for contaminants within the scope of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). At the County’s request, the ESA also assessed the site for any archeological and cultural sites, as well as an assessment of the site for endangered flora or fauna. The ESA revealed no significant contamination, no archeological or cultural sites, and no endangered or threatened flora or fauna on the site.

What is the Total cost of the project?

As of January, 2020 the total cost estimate for the court and detention portions, including architectural and engineering fees, and fixtures and furnishings is approximately $65 million. In addition, the estimated cost for the Connections Center Mental Health and Community Services facility is $3.6 million.

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